Rosalie was a bartender/singer in Sugar Land, Texas, when she met Abdullah Baylani, a Saudi graduate student from a wealthy family. To Rosalie, whose happiest memories were of her ex-patriot childhood in the Middle East, “Abdi” represents an exotic life she longs to recapture. To Abdullah, she was a breath of fresh air, uninhibited and unconstrained by Saudi culture. But after a quarter century in Saudi Arabia, Rosalie now speaks (almost) fluent Arabic, and her once-red hair is hidden by a veil. She has learned to fit in to survive. But in Abdullah’s eyes, no matter how unfair it is, she’s lost a part of what made her so unique:
Recently she had watched the bright moon of Abdullah’s adoration waning, until it seemed to only reflect light from dying planets – a dull secondhand light. For years they had been a comfort to each other, but somewhere along the way their marriage had grown functional. Now she could only acknowledge that the devotion upon which she had built her world in the farthest province of a desolate land had dissolved under her feet. Kindle location 427
Rosie’s world becomes completely undone when she finds out that her husband has taken another, far younger wife – and kept it from her for more than two years. The revelation is further complicated by her teenage son Faisal’s increasing resentment of the “outsider” status that his “Ameeriki” mother forces on him. She turns to an old college friend, an ex-pat who still works for her husband, for support. But a relationship that would be totally understandable, even innocuous, in Texas, looks way different in the Kingdom.
I found Parssinen’s The Ruins of Us a thought-provoking look at the arc of an intercultural love affair. But the question the reader is left with at the end of the story goes way beyond culture: If you give up everything for someone else, what’s actually left of yourself?
This book is recommended for lovers of contemporary fiction, especially those who enjoy books situated in an international setting. I particularly enjoyed the depiction of family life in Saudi Arabia – Rosie and Abdullah’s blogging, rock and roll loving daughter Mariam gives us about as good a representation of the global teen culture as I’ve seen. It’s a quick read, and perhaps a bit predictable, but well-written and quite enjoyable.
Since Rosie is an immigrant in Saudi Arabia, this is my first book for Colleen's Immigrant Challenge 2012 at Books in the City. I am looking for non-US immigration stories this year, so if you have any ideas, let me know!
I read this book as part of a TLC book tour, and received a copy of the book in return for my honest opinion. For other opinions, check out the links here.