The Ruins of Us is a compelling, timely debut novel that explores the loneliness of expatriate life and the dangers of intolerance, as well as the things we'll do for love.
More than two decades after moving to Saudi Arabia and marrying powerful Abdullah Baylani, American-born Rosalie learns that her husband has taken a second wife. That discovery plunges their family into chaos as Rosalie grapples with leaving the country, her life, and her family behind.
Meanwhile, Abdullah and Rosalie’s consuming personal entanglements blind them to the crisis approaching their sixteen-year-old son, Faisal, whose deepening resentment toward their lifestyle has led to his involvement with a controversial sheikh. When Faisal makes a choice that could destroy everything his embattled family holds dear, they all must confront difficult truths as they fight to preserve what remains of their world.
The Ruins of Us is a timely story about intolerance, family, and the injustices we endure for love that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new voice in contemporary fiction.
Keija Parssinen is the author of The Ruins of Us, which won a Michener-Copernicus Award. Raised in Saudi Arabia and Texas, she is a graduate of Princeton University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. Parssinen is an assistant professor of English at Kenyon College, where she teaches fiction writing.
“Absorbing. . . . A testament to Parssinen’s literary talent, this woven narrative moves seamlessly, chapter by chapter, as the suspenseful story escalates.” — Boston Globe
“Keija Parssinen vividly evokes daily reality in the Kingdom. . . . While she portrays the physical and social landscapes with the precision of an impassioned expat, Parssinen also limns-with a wisdom that belies her age-the culture-transcending contours of the human heart.” — National Geographic Traveler
“Keija Parssinen was a third-generation expat in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, and she summons its atmosphere of fraught privilege in her debut novel, The Ruins of Us.” — T: The New York Times Style Magazine
“A compelling debut.” — Marie Claire (UK)
“An intelligent, complex story of interfaith marriage. . . . That balances nail-biting tension with lyrical intent.” — The Guardian
“Having been brought up in Saudi Arabia, [Parssinen] knows the background and writes boldly and unsentimentally of a family’s predicament at the edge of cultural fault lines.” — Sunday Times (London)
“Extraordinarily polished, supremely mature.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“[Parssinen] digs deep in this narrative, and what she unearths is exquisitely wrought.” — Columbia Daily Tribune
“The Ruins of Us is a stunning debut novel--a love story that spans continents. Parssinen teaches us that while cultural differences run deep, when it comes to matters of the heart, we are all the same. I was dazzled by this book.” — Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Close Your Eyes
“Parssinen convincingly inhabits the shifting moods of her characters. . . . Throughout, her prose is artful without being showy, forced, or melodramatic, and her knowledge of Saudi culture informs the story. . . . A fine debut.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Parssinen’s gripping, well-crafted debut tracks the awakening of a Saudi Arabian family to the dangers that lurk within. . . . Parssinen deftly illuminates Saudi Arabian life through a family locked in a battle over morality and cultural chasms.” — Publishers Weekly
“THE RUINS OF US tells a gripping story about Saudi Arabian princes and bureaucrats, wives and extra-wives, sons and daughters, fanatics and exiles. . . . [Keija Parssinen] directs the human and historical traffic with a maestro’s sense of pace, and a true storyteller’s sense of consequence.” — Scott Spencer, author of Man in the Woods
“THE RUINS OF US is an arresting story of family and country. Parssinen’s characters are richly conceived and her evocative petrol universe of wealth, privilege, and intrigue is unforgettable. Powerful storytelling that is refreshing and entertaining.” — Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
“A big, brave novel, Keija Parssinen’s THE RUINS OF US takes us behind the compound walls of Saudi Arabia and into the secret passions that threaten to tear one family apart. Step into Parssinen’s sensual prose and be transported.” — Anna Solomon, author of The Little Bride
“Parssinen carries the reader . . . in the grip of a story that is both entertaining and wise. . . . The debut of an enormously talented writer who is unafraid to lead us on the greatest adventure of all--into the wilds of the human heart.” — Lise Saffran, author of Juno's Daughters
“[An] accomplished debut novel . . . clearly the work of a gifted storyteller.” — The National
“This stunning novel explores some emotionally explosive territory--what happens when a Muslim man takes a second wife after many years of marriage to his first one. Parssinen handles it with grace, intelligence, and gorgeous prose--a transporting and beautiful book.” — Zoë Ferraris, author of Kingdom of Strangers
“Parssinen’s characters capture all the complexities, aspirations, ambiguities, and sheer hypocrisy of Saudi society today. A notable achievement and a page-turner. I could not put it down till I had finished.” — Dr. Roger Allen, Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor Emeritus of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics, School of Arts & Sciences; Professor Emeritus of Arabic & Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania