Ruins by Terence Donoghue

four stars

ruinsRuins is the compelling story of a young American man in the tumultuous 1970s who moves to Iran to work at an American corporation. Walt yearns to travel the world, visit historic sites, and meet interesting people. When he lands in Isfahan, Iran, he realizes he has to settle down and make some money in order to sustain his wanderlust. After meeting some Americans who work for an American Helicopter corporation located in Isfahan, he applies for and lands a job with the corporation in their supply division. There he befriends plenty of Americans, however they don’t all share his thirst for knowledge and culture. He does meet a young Iranian professor, Daveed, who, while he loves to share his own passion for his culture with Walt, serves as the leader for a local resistance movement. Walt and Daveed’s friendship blossoms as steadily as the civil unrest in Iran. Even if he doesn’t realize it, Walt is at the center of the clash between Western civilization and the Middle East, and the repercussions of the clash ripple throughout Walt’s life in ways he couldn’t have imagined.

Ruins is an incredibly well-researched look into life for Americans in 1970s Iran. With a gift for vivid and colorful language, Terence Donoghue leaves the reader feeling like they’re walking down the streets of Iran, eating nan and sipping tea. Ruins depicts Iran at a time when the growing unrest threatens to topple the regime and its people. Donoghue accurately portrays the toxic masculinity and patriotism in a way that especially mirrors modern-day culture. However, the book did seem to lack an in-depth look inside the characters’ minds and emotions. Poignant moments, such as when Walt went through a breakup or saw someone die before his eyes, were merely brushed over. At times the language felt contrived, somewhat unnatural. The subplots of Walt’s romantic adventures and other experiences could have been shortened to make the novel more focused. Despite these setbacks, Ruins informed the reader as much as it entertained and will especially resonate in today’s society, where international attitudes seem to mimic those in this novel.

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