Review: Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman

July 10, 2012 General Fiction, Harper Collins Publishers, Review, William Morrow 8

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (May 1, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 006205984X
  • Source: Publisher

Ruth Wasserman is a young, curly haired Jewish girl living in a small town in Alabama.  All her life, she wanted to be everything she wasn’t: thin, blonde, and popular. Instead, she’s a prisoner to her food obsession and her low self-esteem. Home for the summer after her freshman year of college, Ruth has lost a dramatic amount of weight-35 pounds. She tells her friends and family that she dieted, but in actuality she just didn’t eat. Despite this rapid weight loss, Ruth’s body image is distorted, she still sees layers of fat covering her body.

Her older brother, David, has also come home for the summer. He’s the family’s golden child, always doing what is right and expected of him. He brings home good grades, has played soccer his entire life, even earning scholarships based on his skill. Yet for some reason this year at school was different. He and Ruth didn’t talk like they used to. Only a few years apart, David and Ruth had a great sibling relationship but something has changed. David seems different, separating himself from his friends and family.

When a near-drowning takes place at the small community pool where David and Ruth work as lifeguards, both David and Ruth are forced to confront the skeletons in their closets, issues long ignored within their family and their small town.

Saving Ruth is truly compelling novel that addresses many sensitive subjects including eating disorders, racial tensions, depression and more. Fishman excels at accurately portraying issues that are relevant to every individual at this age, not sugar coating the issues but instead showing them at face value. A truly well-imagined and developed character-driven novel, Saving Ruth introduces readers to a wealth of dynamic characters. Zoe has always been an outcast, never really living up to her parents’ dreams and aspirations. Feeling that she doesn’t have much to live up to, never able to reach the status her older brother has, instead she just gets by.  Seeing her “golden child” brother deteriorate, it forces her to take a step back and evaluate what she’s doing to her body and with her life. David, too, witnesses how Ruth has changed and is so shocked that he opts to shed the facade he’s been carrying around all year. The two siblings go through a tremendous period of growth and rediscovery, together.

Saving Ruth is a truly rewarding novel, one that I see being discussed at book clubs due to the sheer volume of discussion-worthy topics. It is a novel I devoured in one sitting, a book that took me back to my youth and all the issues of that age. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: instances of drugs, sex, language

8 Responses to “Review: Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman”

  1. Adriana Ryan

    Oh, I’ve had my eye on this one! I love social issue/psychological issue stories. Have you read Wasted by Marya Hornbacher? It’s non-fiction, but so good! It’s about her fight with a life-threatening eating disorder and bipolar disorder…she was down to 52 pounds when she decided to save herself. Very powerful. Saving Ruth sounds the same way. Definitely going on my list.

  2. FABR Steph

    Thank you for your review. I have seen this book around, but didn’t realize that it covered such heavy, but important, content. I will have to give this a try.

  3. Howard Sherman
    Twitter: howardasherman

    People that know me wouldn’t think I’d read a book like Saving Ruth. And they would be wrong. This book reaches to me as a Jew and immediately found myself relating to Ruth putting aside her gender, location and her sibling.

    I don’t know how I can possibly keep up with my TBR list but I can’t stop myself from adding Saving Ruth.

  4. Karen White
    Twitter: karenwhitereads

    I so loved this book. Just fell in love and connected with Ruth from the start. And Fishman does an amazing job of addressing weighty subjects without losing hope.