Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan

As many of you know, my mother died when I was three and my family endured a couple of step-mothers after her passing. My father didn't pick wisely. I don't feel bad for saying that. He would tell you himself that his main purpose for remarrying was to have a mother for his children and not necessarily for love.

The step-mother that spent the most time with us was, in my honest opinion, abusive.  (I've written a post about her that you can read about HERE.)  A horrible person, she was clearly too old to raise a new family, especially with a little terror like me around. I believe her granddaughter was older than me. Yeah. I'm certain of it. I never cared for the woman from the time she married my father when I was in kindergarten to the time she left us when I was eleven. Although, had I known what would have taken place with that divorce...

Abuse... physical, mental, verbal... it stays with you, and it changes who you are.  Abuse permanently plants a seed of doubt just underneath that layer of confidence, and regardless of what you allow others to see on the outside, you're always just a stone's throw away from dropping the facade and walking away from the fake world of perfection that you've built around you.

Maybe that's a bit over dramatic. I'm just speaking on a personal level.

Regardless, my step-mother used a combination of abuse, and watching how it destroyed my siblings, I was desperate to save myself.  Remember that word... desperate.

Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan, unfolds in the court room and showcases a series of events involving  Detective Sergeant Hunter McKenna, Tom Shepherd, his ex-wife, the suspicious deaths of two teenagers, and the journal entries of Evelyn Shepherd.

In Harvest of Ruins, you'll read a story about a girl named Evelyn Shepherd and her struggle to find balance in her life after her parents divorce. Enduring the daily struggle with a mother that is insistent on her being the perfect and proper girl, Evelyn finds herself questioning the truth behind the friendships her mother has made for her, the friends she would like to have, and how she can still be herself without disappointing her mother. Honestly, I think Evelyn's mother is reckless, emotionally distant, and so caught up in the world of being perfect that she misses key opportunities to help her daughter.

Then you have Evelyn's father, Tom, who is the total opposite. He wants his daughter to find her own friends, her own interests, choose her clothes, and more importantly... he wants her to be a kid. But the differences between the parents cause a constant push and pull relationship with their daughter. The more her parents pull her in different directions, the more frustrated Evelyn becomes. And overtime, you can see her struggling with her desire to trust both of them. 

This struggle started when she was  young, long before her parents divorced.  At one point, after being assaulted by some boys at an activity, Evelyn was more worried about her mother being upset with her dress being ruined than she was about asking for help or telling her parents about what had happened. Even worse, the parents were so involved in their indifference with each other that they couldn't even see that something was wrong.

Add to this the struggles of her teenage years, a series of suspicious deaths, an investigation that leads to the questioning of Evelyn, a falsely reported rape, and the betrayal of Evelyn's "friends" and you can see why Evelyn becomes desperate. Desperate to stop the lies. Desperate to stop the constant push and pull from her parents. Desperate to find silence, but in a way that forgiveness will prevail. 

Sandra Ruttan opens Harvest of Ruins with a pretty intense scene. The scene is written so well that it leaves the reader making their own impressions regarding the death that takes place.  Since the actual victim isn't mentioned until later in the book, I found myself in shock when the victim was revealed. I even reread the opening just to see if I had missed something. Then, I actually had to put the book down to mourn the loss of a character I had grown to love.  

After this scene, Harvest of Ruins is shared with the reader through witness testimony and journal entries entered as evidence in a negligent homicide case.  It's an incredible look inside the drama that can unfold during court proceedings and is written without all the legal jargon that can usually lead to boredom.   

As for the ending...  Evelyn's desperation causes her to make a decision that seems completely unforgivable until she reveals her reason why. And her reason is so simple... it actually made me cry.

See, I'm one of those hopeless happy people that always finds a happy ending. In fact, I'd say that my biggest problem with reading is that I have a habit of writing the ending as I read along thinking that there is no way an author wouldn't rap up the book with an ending where the world is full of peace and all the characters are now tucked away into their happy places.  I'm not sure why that is.  Maybe it's because the happy ending I wrote for myself so many years ago as child didn't work out, and that the one I wrote for myself as an adult is full of too many cracks to ever end with the happiness that I seek. But regardless of my desire to seek a happy ending for all the books I read, I'm actually understanding and appreciating that they don't always end that way. 

Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan is available at AMAZON for $1.79.

Sandra Ruttan is the Bestselling author of Harvest of Ruins, Suspicious Circumstance, The Nolan, Hart & Train series, and is the Editor for Spinetingler Magazine and Snubnose Press.


Paul D. Brazill said...

Well, that sounds damned good. Hard hitting stuff.

Thomas Pluck said...

I understand your desire for a happy ending, I had similar troubles in my childhood and I think I'm still looking for that childhood I expected.
I have this one on my kindle, I'll bump it to the top of the list.

mollie bryan said...

Amazing review. I don't think I've ever read one like it. So glad I checked out your blog. I totally understand your desire for a happy ending. And now I must get the book.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Excellent review. You really demonstrate how you connect with this book. Putting it on my Kindle straight away.

Pearce Hansen said...

It's strange how often less-than-fortunate childhoods can fuel our writing as adults. We can't control the past, but we can control the words we put to paper.

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

I just wanted to stop by and thank all of you for leaving a comment and visiting the blog.

Harvest of Ruins is truly an amazing book. Sandra did an excellent job in building the characters even though you learn about most of them through testimony and journal entries. It was a hard read for me because a character I loved died, but that loss is what fueled my emotion and made me appreciate the author even more.