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There's nothing more debilitating than a family secret, especially when only one or two people know the truth about what really happened. Skeletons in the proverbial closet eat away at sanity and transform reality into a nightmarish place where terrible things could happen to the secret-keepers if anyone found out.
Such is the life that Amanda Starkey lives in Christina Schwarz's psychological thriller, Drowning Ruth.
In 1919, Amanda comes home to Milwaukee to live with her sister Mathilda and Mathilda's daughter Ruth, three years old, while Mathilda's husband is away at war. Their idyllic home life together, much like the close one the sisters shared growing up, is shattered when Mathilda vanishes one night. Her body is discovered under the ice on a nearby lake.
No one knows what happened except Amanda, who is brittle and grimly determined not to tell anyone, and Ruth, who remembers the events of that night in glimpses and flashes. Amanda settles down to raise Ruth and to face Mathilda's husband when he returns home to find his wife missing.
Schwarz does a spectacular job building tension from the very first line: "Ruth remembered drowning." (Who wouldn't want to keep reading after that?)
Part of her strategy to maintain the tension and reader interest comes from her deft use of multiple points of view throughout the story, even mixing first-person perspectives with third-person perspectives to give several different angles on the same scene or event. Amanda's voice, for instance, is defensive and secretive as she fights to hide what she knows.
The historical setting is beautifully crafted. Dialogue between the characters is rich and realistic. And the growing sense the reader has of something having gone terribly, terribly wrong that one dark night is what kept me turning pages far into the few nights it took me to (ravenously) finish the book.
That final conclusion, the last revelation, is as satisfying an ending as is demanded by the first line of the entire novel.
Drowning Ruth, an Oprah's Book Club pick and #1 New York Times bestseller, is a thriller I can heartily and without hesitation recommend; its twists and turns will keep you guessing to the last page.
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Title: Drowning Ruth
Author: Christina Schwarz
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1nSnq3R
Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.