Published Jan 17, 2012
Trade paperback, 352 pages
Exotic Saudi Arabia is the setting for this stunning debut novel that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. It is mystery, romance, real-life family drama, and political intrigue all rolled into one magnificently-told tale!
Forty-seven-year-old, American-born Rosalie is married to fabulously rich and handsome Saudi businessman, Abdullah (Abdi), with whom she has two children. They appear to have a perfect life together. One day on a shopping trip with her teenage daughter she discovers that her husband of 25 years is buying jewellery for another woman. When Rosalie confronts Abdullah she learns that he has taken a much younger second wife – something that is legal in the Moslem Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but which is frowned upon by modern Saudis.
The household is thrown into turmoil and chaos as Abdi tries to share his life with two different women. Meanwhile, fuelled by anger, resentment, and a growing disdain for his parents, their teenage son becomes increasingly rebellious and ever more attached to fundamentalist Islam. Events come to a head when Rosalie is kidnapped, and taken into the desert. Though she is rescued, and unharmed physically, their life will never be the same. Abdi, Rosalie and their son must face difficult truths about themselves and their family dynamics. When Abdi’s second wife becomes pregnant, Rosalie must decide whether she can cope with the new development or leave behind her life in Saudi Arabia and start her life anew.
The author describes interesting scenes of life in “the Kingdom”. “They passed a high-end lingerie store, where mannequins wreathed in satin stood on tiptoe and thrust out their breasts. A male salesman was helping a female customer, who was completely veiled; even her hands were gloved as she reached to touch the negligees and corsets.” The author has experienced Saudi life firsthand so her descriptions of exotic flowers, the desert, the people, the political situation, clothes, food, customs and attitudes lend authenticity to the story.
The story is sad, but compelling as it explores universal themes of love, betrayal, family, the consequences of anger and the changing face of love.
Note: This book is rated P = Profanity. There are f-words peppered throughout the story as well as religious expletives.
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Keija Parssinen was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for twelve years as a third-generation expatriate. She earned a degree in English literature from Princeton University and received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship. For The Ruins of Us, her first novel, she received a Michener-Copernicus Award. She lives with her husband on the edge of a quarry in Missouri.
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Disclosure: Thanks to HarperCollins and Trish Collins from TLC Tours for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.