Ruins of California

The Ruins of California

by Martha Sherrill

I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill.

This book sat on my dresser for a while, unread, because I was at first opposed to the name. Ruins of California? That’s the name of the family — get it? Ruins? Fortunately, I went by my read the first three chapters rule, and suddenly it was 3:00 am, and I was engrossed in the life of young Inez Ruin, child of the 70s with a crazy mommy and a Peter Pan of a daddy. The Ruins of California reads like a memoir of someone lucky and gifted enough to write as incisively about their 7-year old self as their 18-year old self. It all feels honest and true. There are all the trappings of the era, hippies, Berkeley, est,  but it’s not about these things — it’s about a family and how they make it — or don’t — through the second half of the century. The Ruins of California by Martha Sherill. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a fiction nation minute. The book is The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill.

Some authors, maybe being a little lazy, will write characters that are quirky, or ethnic, or differently gendered, and use that as a sort of cliff notes. We the reader are supposed to fill in the blanks. It takes a superior writer to create a character that has quirks but is a recognizable person. In The Ruins of California, Sherrill heads back to the 70s and takes a family full of quirks — mommy is a famous depressed Flamenco dancer, daddy is a spoiled child of privilege, brother is a drug using surfer — Inez, the narrator, is simply trying to grow up and figure out how she fits in. It is to the author’s credit that all the people in this book act like people — maddening, funny, selfish, loving and ultimately nothing but real. The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill.

Ah, the crazy mommy…where would literature be without her? How many books have been written because the author’s mother was a little too desperate of a housewife? So, she forgot to make you dinner for 3 years, go write a book. I feel we have neglected Peter Pan Daddy. In The Ruins of California, although we meet crazy mommy first, Peter Pan daddy soon moves to the front and dominates this tale of growing up in California in the 70s. What do you rebel against, after all, when dad is your dope dealer? The narrator, Inez Ruin, goes from seeing her dad as godlike to finally realizing he is a human being, complicated and imperfect — maybe just like her. Even thought this novel is set in the land of hippies and surfing, this journey is universal. The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill.

Remember the 70’s? The author of this book sure does.  We meet Inez Ruin, our narrator, a little girl in 1969, and follow her as she grows up in a time without limits: no airbags, seatbelts, and no one was just saying no — to anything. You could smoke on an airplane! She talks about moving between the solid suburbia of her mother’s house to the swinging, sophisticated bachelor pad where her father entertained a parade of women, to her wealthy grandmother’s white gloves and horses estate, all the while trying to figure out which, if any, of these worlds she belongs in.  In The Ruins of California, the author creates an extended family that acts like a family: loving, selfish, cruel and generous, sometimes all at once, but mostly very real. The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


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