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Beautiful Ruins: A Novel

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel - Jess Walter To explain all the things this book is about would require a long summary, such as that on goodreads, but here is my best attempt at a shorter description. Beautiful Ruins involves two main stories. One, set in 1962, describes a meeting between a young, Italian innkeeper named Pasquale and a beautiful American actress named Dee. The other story follows Pasquale as, fifty years later, he tries to find the actress he felt such a connection with. In between, we get to know the many people who become part of their story, including a young assistant producer becoming disenchanted with Hollywood and a young man struggling to find his place in life.

I don’t think either my description or even the goodreads one really does this book justice. First and foremost, I would describe it as a story about human nature. The characters are incredibly believable and one of the author’s greatest strengths is writing in a style that fits each character. Through his words you can share the characters’ experiences, from a surreal scene in an idyllic Italian village to the life of someone trying to make it big in competitive and fast-paced Hollywood. As in many great, character-driven stories, the characters have their flaws but there are still many likable, relatable characters.

The language in the book is also beyond description – beautiful, poignant, want to read it out loud kind of writing. The plot was as complex and engaging as the characters. I loved they way the author slowly shared the story of Pasquale’s original meeting with Dee. As we slowly learned more about the present day, I couldn’t wait to find out how things happened in the past. I felt deeply invested in all of our characters and I thought the ending was just perfect. A little bittersweet, a little hopeful, and incredibly well written. I loved this book.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.