Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Ruins of Us

I used to sit at my Colombian grandmother's knee when I was little, while she combed my hair. She would dip her small grey comb into a glass of warm water, and then run it through my dark curls. As she smoothed my hair, she'd tell me stories. I would run to her as soon as I saw her reach for the blue glass to fill with water. In her soft voice, she'd tell me about her childhood, the small village where she came from, what life was like in South America so very long ago. Good stories about being four years old when she saw the brilliant fireworks in the night sky celebrating the turn of the century as gold coins were tossed out to the people at midnight by her small village's mayor. I could hear the clink of the coins hitting the ground as she spoke.

I'm still the same way. As much time as I spend online, I still read, every night, before I go to sleep. I escape into good stories. Good stories are my time away in another place, where I always come back changed.

I have found just such a Good Story, and I'm giving away not just a copy, but a signed copy by the author.

Keija Parssinen is the author of The Ruins of Us, a book riveting enough to keep me awake two nights to finish it; trying to fall asleep in the middle of it was useless. This is Keija's first novel, and I can barely believe it's a debut. The Ruins of Us is a story set in Saudi Arabia with characters so rich they become flesh and blood real.

This is a GOOD story. A story about an American woman, married and living the isolated life that can come from living in another country, who's had to learn to live with things; which doesn't mean they've become easier to live with. It's a story about excuses being given as reasons. A tale of a marriage, children, her children; and powerlessly watching them learn everything they know and believe come from their father's culture.

It's a story about a woman who one day looks at the last thing she has left in her life, her children, and the pain of seeing them as if they're someone else's; scarcely able to recognize a shred of herself in them anymore.

I was swept away in hand over mouth emotion as I read these pages.

Keija masterfully balances subtlety with aching transparency in her characters, making this book an important and powerful read that will leave you changed, as I was. I came away with a new understanding of something I once quickly judged.

Keija romantically spent the first twelve years of her life in Saudi Arabia, an experience that no doubt resulted in the beauty of this book. Her website will tell you everything you need to know about this woman who writes like a dream. You can follow her on twitter @KeijaParssinen and like her on FaceBook Keija Parssinen.

I will be using random.org to pick a winner for a signed copy of The Ruins of Us. *Just leave a comment to enter. *Tweets would be appreciated*

Congratulations, Keija, your book is an exquisite delight for a lover of good story tellers. I felt like I was back at my grandmother's knee. Thank you.

*I received no compensation for this post. Keija is The Flying Chalupa/Tarja's sister and Tarja had asked me to review her sister's debut novel. I did, and when I finished it, I was so sad that it was over.

45 comments:

  1. Wow - that sounds like a powerful story.....

    ...and your grandmother sounds wonderful!

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  2. This sounds like a book I would absolutely love to read.

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  3. I love books like this! Count me in, please!

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  4. Nothing says GOOD, better than not wanting it to end!

    PS: I'm not entering.

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  5. OK, you have me hooked. I want to read this book. I'm totally in.

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  6. Always on the hunt for a good book to take me into the mind of another, I'm so excited to check this one out! Thank you!

    You know....the brief tale of your grandmother filled my heart with happiness and I'd so love to hear more...You are able to paint such an exquisitely wonderful world with your words, My Sweet. I only wish I had met you sooner!
    xoxo

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  7. Oh my goodness, it sounds wonderful!!!

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  8. To me, it says everything, when I'm sad that the book is over. And if you say a tale is good, than it is good. I went over to her website and I am riveted. I want to go study under her at her workshop! Thanks for the great review.

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  9. Wow! What a review. You have convinced me. I'm in!

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  10. Yay. I've been looking for a few new books b/c they're my escape too. Thanks for this in depth review; this is definitely one to add to my list.

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  11. What a fabulous, well-written, oh-so-thoughtful review! I love how you tied it in with your grandmother, because, well, you know how much I love stories about your grandmother.

    Thank you so, so, so much for this, Alexandra! Keija will be over the moon.
    Big hugs,
    Chalupa

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  12. You know what I remember about my nana? That she used to constantly remind us of how hard her life was and how charmed ours were. Not the best memories. You're a lucky lady.

    I love to read and would love to read this particular book. Your review makes it impossible not to do, whether I win or not.

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  13. Your grandmother sounds wonderful. So does the book.

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  14. I too love the gramma stories, for I never got time with my own. Entering the giveaway, because I can't wait to read this!

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  15. I wish I could give you all a copy of this book. I could've gone on forever about the way it changed me. Most importantly, without telling you to much, It is a very important work.

    What happens in the last two chapters has taught me to never judge, because I don't know what someone else has seen and lived through.

    I get a lump in my throat when I remember a paragraph in particular toward the end.

    It really is amazing book that makes you want to jump in and shout NO! Stop!!

    So good, and SO worth the two nights without sleep.

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  16. Love books that make you want to skip sleep. I'm always looking for a rec! Thanks for this...right up my alley!

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  17. Will I cry? And then my family will look at me like I'm nuts? Sounds unlike anything I have ever read.

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  18. Ann, Chalupa and now you raving about this book. It must be amazing and I'm entering every giveaway for this book available. EVERY ONE!!

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  19. nic..i love to read and could def use something to keep me up at night...smiles...

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  20. Thank you for the beautiful review! Wish I could hear your grandmother's stories. Sounds like they were enchanting.

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  21. I have read this masterful first novel and agree wholeheartedly with your review. It's a book you want to give to all your friends.

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  22. I just bought it! I can't wait for it to arrive!!!! Why I didn't go to my nearby bookstore and get it ASAP I don't know. Oh, yes I do, I'm lazy.

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  23. I'd love a copy! Of course, I want a copy of your book when you write it, too.

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  24. Your review makes me want to go get a copy! And I love your stories about your grandma.

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  25. Oh, to all of you: this book is really a wonder. Changed my thinking. And the heartache of this story, which I'm sure is a true enough account for American women who live in their husband's country.

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  26. I got such mixed feelings reading your review. My interest is piqued and yet I'm sad for this woman.

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  27. This book sounds amazing, the story so exotic yet still tangible.

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  28. It sounds WONDERFUL. I'll read it even if I don't win.

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  29. It sounds quite compelling--thanks for the review, it's always great to get a recommendation.

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  30. Love a book that grabs you and holds on!

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  31. I was very intrigued when I read the review on the Chalupa's blog.
    I haven't read a good book in a long time.

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  32. I would LOVE to read it. If I don't win, I'll go check out the library.

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  33. I just started this - it's actually the first book that I purchased on my Kindle . . . can't wait to get to the end :-)

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  34. I'm adding this to my Must Reads list. Sounds like just the sort of story I've been looking for.

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  35. Wonderful review! It sounds heart-breaking and painful to read. Mmmmmm. Catharsis!

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  36. Thanks all for entering! I can't say enough good things about this book. I even posted a review on Amazon..the book is a haunting of my spirit...it changed what I thought I knew, and though others may feel differently about what Keija writes...I appreciate having my eyes opened. Being open, being aware, understanding.

    What a beautiful gift she's given me. This book is so much more than entertainment.

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  37. Sounds like a good book, but we think we'd rather read the book about your grandma's stories!

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  38. I saw this book over at Ann's too. Win or no win, I need to get this book. It sounds amazing! And I love getting into a good book.

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  39. What a beautiful book review! I'd love to read it. I'm going to see about reviewing it for the bookstore where I work.

    And, ah, your grandmother's stories and the way you write about them? We need to talk about a children's book, my friend. Wow. I want to hear more.

    You: I love. And am so lucky to know. You are one of the best things that has happened to me this year. XO

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  40. I always love to have a wonderful book waiting in my TBR pile! What a beautiful review. Fingers crossed that I win this novel!

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  41. Sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing!

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  42. I can't wait to read this book.
    Really.

    I am mostly thrilled (and also the tiniest bit jealous) of her awesomeness.

    Did I mention I can't wait to read this book?

    Yeah. I know that doesn't make me twice as likely to win a copy. I just really mean it.

    Thanks for the great review ~ I'll be having my book club read this next month for sure...

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  43. This sounds like an awesome book. Thanks so much for a wonderful review!

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