Review: Castles and Ruins by Rue Matthiessen

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When Rue Matthiessen was eight, her family spent a summer in Ireland in an idyllic setting near the ruin of a castle. Her parents were going through a difficult period, but Rue remembers that time as a reprieve from the stresses causing a rift. Her parents, author Deborah Love and famed naturalist and writer Peter Matthiessen, continued to struggle with their relationship until Deborah died of cancer while Rue was in high school.

Decades later, with a husband and child of her own, Rue sets out to find the last place she remembers her family being happy together. She tells about her trip and faces truths about her parents and their flaws in her memoir, Castles & Ruins: Unraveling Family Mysteries & Literary Legacy in the Irish Countryside.

As her guide, Rue carries a copy of the book Deborah Love wrote about that summer, Annaghkeen.  She intentionally seeks out some places her mother mentions and stumbles upon others. Through the lens of being a mother herself, she sees the actions of her parents in a new light.

Castles & Ruins is an interesting journey in two ways. There’s the physical meaning of Rue traveling around Ireland and discovering the landscape and people in a way she couldn’t as a child. There’s also a journey into her emotional past as she gains insights into the forces that compelled her parents to live the way they did. She’s open about their flaws as well as her own. Readers of memoir will appreciate her honesty while traveling with her through the book.

The publisher provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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