“This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life.”

A review of Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

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What propels a person forward in life?  Ambition, goals, dreams?  As people move from childhood to adulthood and through their lives, it seems that many have a clear picture of what they believe their life will or should be in the future, but what if this vision and the reality of their situation never meet.  It is at such a fork in the road of life where one could possibly encounter beautiful ruins, that which is left of a person when ambition, goals, or dreams have faded in to the reality of everyday living.  But even ruins have a certain charm.

In his 2012 book, Beautiful Ruins, Mr. Walter investigates this idea through the lives of rather diverse characters.  The year is 1962, and a dying American actress finds herself in a dying fishing village situated in a mere crack of the Italian coast on the Ligurian Sea.  Fresh from Rome and the production of the epic film Cleopatra, she basks in the obscurity of the village’s one small pension aptly named the Hotel Adequate View.

With a timeline that shifts between 1960s Italy and modern-day Hollywood, a cast of characters is introduced who are all desperately trying to bring to fruition that which they have dreamed as their future.  And from where do these dreams spring forth?  What forces in one’s life are powerful enough to create such dreams?  Of one character, Claire, Mr. Walter writes:

“We want what we want. At home, she works herself into a frenzy worrying about what she isn’t – and perhaps loses track of just where she is.”

 As the novel progresses, the reader becomes intertwined with the various quests being made, ever wondering the final outcome.  In your experience, just how often does illusion become reality?

“But aren’t all great quests folly? There are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant – sail for Asia and stumble on America – and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along.”

 Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type and Large Type), eBook, Audiobook (CD), Downloadable Audiobook, Playaway

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill