Drowning Ruth: A Novel

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Drowning Ruth: A Novel

by Christina Schwarz

Random House Publishing Group | July 31, 2001 | Trade Paperback |

5 out of 5 rating. 4 Reviews
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"POWERFUL . . . SUSPENSEFUL . . . RICHLY TEXTURED . . . [A] CHILLING, PRECOCIOUSLY GOOD START TO A BRIGHT NEW NOVELIST'S CAREER."
-The New York Times

"[A] gripping psychological thriller . . . In the winter of 1919, a young mother named Mathilda Neumann drowns beneath the ice of a rural Wisconsin lake. The shock of her death dramatically changes the lives of her daughter, troubled sister, and husband. . . . Told in the voices of several of the main characters and skipping back and forth in time, the narrative gradually and tantalizingly reveals the dark family secrets and the unsettling discoveries that lead to the truth of what actually happened the night of the drowning. . . . Schwarz certainly succeeds at keeping the reader engrossed."
-FRANCINE PROSE
Us Weekly

"DEFT AND ASSURED . . . [WITH] STRONG CHARACTERS AND A PLOT LONG ON TENSION AND SURPRISES."
-Time

"A strong sense of portent and unusually vivid characters distinguish this mesmerizing first novel about horrifying family secrets and nearly annihilating guilt. Drowning Ruth is a complex and rewarding debut."
-ANITA SHREVE
Author of The Pilot's Wife

"RIVETING . . . A VERY SUSPENSEFUL TALE, ONE THAT WILL KEEP READERS UP SHIVERING IN THE NIGHT."
-USA Today

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 368 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: July 31, 2001

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345439104

ISBN - 13: 9780345439109

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Reviews

– More About This Product –

Drowning Ruth: A Novel

Drowning Ruth: A Novel

by Christina Schwarz

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 368 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: July 31, 2001

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345439104

ISBN - 13: 9780345439109

Read from the Book

Chapter One - Ruth remembered drowning. “That’s impossible,” Aunt Amanda said. “It must have been a dream.” But Ruth maintained that she had drowned, insisted on it for years, even after she should have known better. Amanda Of course I lied to Ruth. She was only a child. What should I have said? That her mother had been reckless? That I’d had to rescue her, give her new life, bring her up as my own? There are things children are not meant to know. I suppose people will say it was my fault, that if I’d not gone home that March in 1919, Mathilda, my only sister, would not be dead. But I did go home. The way I saw it, I hadn’t any choice. “March 27, 1919.” That’s a good place to begin. That’s what I wrote in the top right corner of the page. “Dear Mattie.” The pen shook as I raised it, splattering ink. “March 27, 1919,” I wrote on a fresh sheet. “Dear Mattie.” In the end, I didn’t bother to write. I knew I would be welcome. After all, Mattie had been begging me to come home for months. And what could I say? I had no explanation. No explanation but the truth, and I certainly didn’t want to tell that. The truth was that the hospital had asked me to leave. Not permanently, of course. “Of course, we don’t want you to go permanently, Miss Starkey,” Dr. Nichols said. It wasn’t clear whom he meant by “we,” since he and I were the on
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From the Publisher

"POWERFUL . . . SUSPENSEFUL . . . RICHLY TEXTURED . . . [A] CHILLING, PRECOCIOUSLY GOOD START TO A BRIGHT NEW NOVELIST'S CAREER."
-The New York Times

"[A] gripping psychological thriller . . . In the winter of 1919, a young mother named Mathilda Neumann drowns beneath the ice of a rural Wisconsin lake. The shock of her death dramatically changes the lives of her daughter, troubled sister, and husband. . . . Told in the voices of several of the main characters and skipping back and forth in time, the narrative gradually and tantalizingly reveals the dark family secrets and the unsettling discoveries that lead to the truth of what actually happened the night of the drowning. . . . Schwarz certainly succeeds at keeping the reader engrossed."
-FRANCINE PROSE
Us Weekly

"DEFT AND ASSURED . . . [WITH] STRONG CHARACTERS AND A PLOT LONG ON TENSION AND SURPRISES."
-Time

"A strong sense of portent and unusually vivid characters distinguish this mesmerizing first novel about horrifying family secrets and nearly annihilating guilt. Drowning Ruth is a complex and rewarding debut."
-ANITA SHREVE
Author of The Pilot's Wife

"RIVETING . . . A VERY SUSPENSEFUL TALE, ONE THAT WILL KEEP READERS UP SHIVERING IN THE NIGHT."
-USA Today

From the Jacket

"POWERFUL . . . SUSPENSEFUL . . . RICHLY TEXTURED . . . [A] CHILLING, PRECOCIOUSLY GOOD START TO A BRIGHT NEW NOVELIST''S CAREER."
"-The New York Times
"[A] gripping psychological thriller . . . In the winter of 1919, a young mother named Mathilda Neumann drowns beneath the ice of a rural Wisconsin lake. The shock of her death dramatically changes the lives of her daughter, troubled sister, and husband. . . . Told in the voices of several of the main characters and skipping back and forth in time, the narrative gradually and tantalizingly reveals the dark family secrets and the unsettling discoveries that lead to the truth of what actually happened the night of the drowning. . . . Schwarz certainly succeeds at keeping the reader engrossed."
-FRANCINE PROSE
" Us Weekly
"DEFT AND ASSURED . . . [WITH] STRONG CHARACTERS AND A PLOT LONG ON TENSION AND SURPRISES."
-"Time
"A strong sense of portent and unusually vivid characters distinguish this mesmerizing first novel about horrifying family secrets and nearly annihilating guilt. "Drowning Ruth is a complex and rewarding debut."
-ANITA SHREVE
Author of "The Pilot''s Wife
"RIVETING . . . A VERY SUSPENSEFUL TALE, ONE THAT WILL KEEP READERS UP SHIVERING IN THE NIGHT."
"-USA Today

About the Author

Christina Schwarz grew up in Wisconsin. She and her husband live in New Hampshire, where she is at work on her second novel.

Author Interviews

Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion 1. Throughout the story, Amanda seems to be alternately portrayed as either sinister and mentally unbalanced or as a sad woman who is a victim of circumstance. What are your feelings about her? Were you mostly sympathetic to her or turned off by her controlling spirit? 2. Did you find most of the main players in Drowning Ruth to be complicated and not easily categorized? Who intrigued you the most? 3. Do you think the author skillfully built up the suspense of the fateful night on the lake? Did you guess what would happen? 4. Ruth and Amanda’s relationship is one of the most compelling elements of the novel. At times they are presented in a motherdaughter dynamic, but at other moments they seem poised as siblings almost, or even as foils to each other– especially when Amanda speaks to us about her own childhood. How do you think Amanda regarded Ruth? What, in your mind, was the real significance of their relationship? Did Amanda truly love Ruth? 5. The lake is a striking backdrop throughout the novel, and most of the traumatic or profound moments occur there: Mathilde and Clement die there, Amanda forces Ruth to swim in it, Imogene and Ruth both fall in love upon it. Do you think the author intended for it to be symbolic of something? If so, what? 6. The complicated and varied relationships between women– friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, aunts and nieces–lie at the heart of this novel. Did any o
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From Our Editors

This emotional and subtle debut novel is a heartening tale of two sisters, their lives and their secrets. Drowning Ruth from author Christina Schwarz begins in the winter of 1919 with Amanda Starkey tending soldiers retuning from the Great War. Overwhelmed, she leaves for her family's farm on Nagawaukee Lake to spend time with her sister Mathilda and her three-year-old niece Ruth. Once there however, things are not as peaceful as she hoped as Amanda has difficulty leaving her troubles behind. A year after her arrival, Mathilda mysteriously disappears and is later found drowned under the frozen lake. Shattered by the events, Amanda's guilt forces her to care for the young Ruth and assume the duties of the farm. When Mathilda's husband returns from the war wounded and shocked, there is immediate friction. The years roll by and Ruth grows up under her frenetic aunt and begins to realize something dreadful happened to her mother. The family splinters and the emotions run high as the truth slowly emerges.

Editorial Reviews

"Gripping . . . A story of deep family rivalries . . . A remarkable debut."
-The New York Times Book Review

"COMPELLING . . .The immediately impressive thing about Drowning Ruth is not the author's talent, though that is apparent within the first few pages, but the ambitious narrative scheme she's devised to tell her tale."
-San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle

"Schwarz pays meticulous attention to her characters. . . . Drowning Ruth offers tender gifts-the shore, the lake, the island, all keeping their own mysteries."
-The Washington Post Book World

Bookclub Guide

1. Throughout the story, Amanda seems to be alternately portrayed as either sinister and mentally unbalanced or as a sad woman who is a victim of circumstance. What are your feelings about her? Were you mostly sympathetic to her or turned off by her controlling spirit?

2. Did you find most of the main players in Drowning Ruth to be complicated and not easily categorized? Who intrigued you the most?

3. Do you think the author skillfully built up the suspense of the fateful night on the lake? Did you guess what would happen?

4. Ruth and Amanda's relationship is one of the most compelling elements of the novel. At times they are presented in a mother/daughter dynamic, but at other moments they seem poised as siblings almost, or even as foils to each other- especially when Amanda speaks to us about her own childhood. How do you think Amanda regarded Ruth? What, in your mind, was the real significance of their relationship? Did Amanda truly love Ruth?

5. The lake is a striking backdrop throughout the novel, and most of the traumatic or profound moments occur there: Mathilde and Clement die there, Amanda forces Ruth to swim in it, Imogene and Ruth both fall in love upon it. Do you think the author intended for it to be symbolic of something? If so, what?

6. The complicated and varied relationships between women- friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, aunts and nieces-lie at the heart of this novel. Did any of these relationships, in particular, strike a chord with you?

7. Do you feel that Amanda's jealousy of her sister was abnormal or just common sibling rivalry? Why do you think the author juxtaposed their relationship with Ruth and Imogene's?

8. Men hover at the edges of the novel. The three main male characters-Carl, Clement, Arthur-though different, are all ultimately ineffectual in some sense. Carl leaves, Clement womanizes, Arthur cannot determine whom he truly loves. Even Amanda's father is barely realized. Why do you think the author created these male characters this way?

9. The island seems to be a very important metaphor. Both Mathilde and Amanda become pregnant there, and it is where they retreat to during Amanda's term. She, especially, is preoccupied throughout the novel with this locale. What does the island represent?

10. Did you like the continuously shifting narration? What was the overall effect of this plot device?

11. Ruth and Imogene's intense friendship commences with the voluntary loss of Ruth's dead, black tooth. Why do you think the author chose such an unusual, visually graphic scene to mark the unfolding of their intertwined lives?

12. In the end, does Ruth follow her heart, or is she still under Amanda's control? Does Ruth return home truly of her own volition?

13. Were the book to continue, do you think the author would have chosen for Ruth and Arthur to unite? Why or why not? What type of man do you envision Ruth with?

14. Drowning Ruth was an Oprah Book Club selection. Have you read any other Oprah picks? If so, how did this compare?

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