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Saving Ruth: A Novel Paperback – May 1, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

When Ruth returns home to the South for the summer after her freshman year at college, a near tragedy pushes her to uncover family truths and take a good look at the woman she wants to become.

Growing up in Alabama, all Ruth Wasserman wanted was to be a blond Baptist cheerleader. But as a curly-haired Jew with a rampant sweet tooth and a smart mouth, this was an impossible dream. Not helping the situation was her older brother, David—a soccer star whose good looks, smarts, and popularity reigned at school and at home. College provided an escape route and Ruth took it.

Now home for the summer, she's back lifeguarding and coaching alongside David, and although the job is the same, nothing else is. She's a prisoner of her low self-esteem and unhealthy relationship with food, David is closed off and distant in a way he's never been before, and their parents are struggling with the reality of an empty nest. When a near drowning happens on their watch, a storm of repercussions forces Ruth and David to confront long-ignored truths about their town, their family, and themselves.

About the Author

Zoe Fishman is the author of Driving Lessons, Saving Ruth, and Balancing Acts. Her books have been translated into German, Italian, Dutch and Polish. She’s the recipient of many awards, including Target’s Breakout and Emerging Author Picks, a New York Post Pick, and has been featured on NBC’s “Atlanta & Co.” as well as in Publishers Weekly and The Huffington Post. She is currently at work on her next novel, as well as teaching writing at The Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. Zoe lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006205984X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062059840
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,891,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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"Saving Ruth" is a good, quick read, but skewed a little young - it's about a 19-year-old home from college in a small Southern town. I recommend this book for girls, age 13-20.

It's supposed to take place NOW (c. 2012 or maybe 2010?) but I just don't think the author has her finger on the pulse of today's 19- and 20-year olds. I think Ms. Fishman was mostly reminiscing about her own 19th summer, and tried to throw in a lot of references to today - some cell phones and texting, some MTV shows, but it mostly rang untrue. Today's 20-year-olds are different from 20-year-olds from when I was 20 (12 years ago!) or from when Ms. Fishman was 20 - they like their parents more, they use technology differently, they know more (it's ok to not like sex, although no graphic sex is depicted in the novel), there are different expectations - like why didn't these kids, who go to good colleges, get internships instead of coaching swimming for the summer? No mention of a bad economy, so.... no explanation was given.

Also, I'm Jewish in the South, and I just felt like some of the situations about being a minority rang untrue, and went unexplained... we're left to assume that Ruth's dad is a lawyer but he's "from New York" and eats lunch at home - so what kind of lawyer is he? How did he get from New York to small-town Alabama? How far do they drive to their synagogue? And Ruth's brother, off in Atlanta at Mercer College, is at a Baptist school. That is is not addressed, even as a source of his discontent.

These things bothered me while and after I read them. But I still enjoyed the book and look forward to seeing Ms. Fishman on her book tour.
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Format: Paperback
Ruth is home for the summer after her first year of college, and she thinks everyone seems fixated on her weight. Sure, she has lost that teenage body fat, but she is hardly thin, at least not in her own mind. In reality, Ruth is skin and bones. It causes her family to be distant, particularly her brother David. She and David work at the local pool as lifeguards, and when a child nearly drowns on their watch, both of them have their eyes opened to the truth about the world in which they live, and the struggles they both are having.

This book was completely captivating. I thought the character development was superb. I really related to Ruth, despite the fact that she is a Jewish girl living in the South, and I am a Catholic girl living in the East. Ruth's struggles with weight, body image, and low self esteem are so common among young girls that I think a lot of readers will see something of themselves in Ruth. It was interesting to see the situation primarily through her eyes, then having it juxtaposed against the observations of others; this really gave the reader a good idea of how skewed her perceptions of her body are. I was shocked to learn what David's secret was; I honestly thought it was going to be something completely different, and I still feel like maybe his story was not completely told.

There are a lot of themes going on in this book. At it's heart, it is a coming of age story, but there is a strong theme of wanting to belong, or fit in. Ruth and David are Jews living in the South, not completely fitting in. Racial tensions at the local pool are high, with the whites feeling that black children do not fit in. Ruth and David both, as individuals, feel they do not fit in to the roles placed upon them.
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Format: Paperback
I would describe this as a coming of age story. The book primarily revolves around nineteen year old Ruth and her slightly older brother, David.

The story takes place one hot summer in Alabama, while both siblings are home on college break. They spend their time life-guarding and coaching at the local summer pool. Ruth, insecure and suffering from low self esteem, finds herself finally acknowledged and popular after a drastic weight loss. David, meanwhile, has always been the popular, smart, soccer star who earned a full scholarship to attend school. However, David returns home that summer, moody and quiet, with some secret he seems to be unable to talk about. Adding to the mix is the fact that they are one of the very few Jewish families in a very southern, Baptist community.

One day, while at the pool, a young, black girl nearly drowns on David and Ruth's watch. Ruth and David finally must confront hidden racism in their town, issues with their family and acknowledging flaws within themselves before the summer ends.

I enjoyed this book and at approximately 279 pages, it is a pretty quick read. I loved the mix of family dynamics, religion and location. It did focus a lot of Ruth's anorexia. Also, at some points,I found myself reading really quickly through some of the dialogue between Ruth and her friends due to it going on and on with her weight...however, I would say this book was very realistic and takes a good look at some important issues. There is not a lot of action and drama as I originally thought, it focuses more on Ruth moving towards becoming the adult she wants to be. I think adults and older teens would enjoy this book and would have no issues recommending it to others.
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