Ruth & Pen
by Emilie Pine
Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Dublin, 7 October 2019.
One day, one city, two women: Ruth and Pen. They don’t know each other, but both are asking themselves the same questions: how to be with others, and how, when the world doesn’t seem willing to make space for them, to be with themselves.
Ruth’s marriage to Aidan is in crisis. Today she needs to make a choice–to stay or not to stay, to take the risk of reaching out or to pull up the drawbridge. For teenage Pen, today is the day the words will flow, and she will speak her truth to Alice, to ask for what she so desperately wants. Deeply involving, poignant and radiantly intelligent, Ruth & Pen is a portrait of the limits of grief and love; of how we navigate our inner and outer landscapes; and the tender courage demanded by the simple, daily quest of living.
Thanks to the publisher for sending an early copy in exchange for an honest review!
I was excited to get my hands on Emilie Pine’s debut novel. She has such an incredible and insightful understanding of life and of humans that I was eagerly curious to see what would come of her foray into fiction. And I was not disappointed by this tender, vulnerable and carefully crafted debut novel.
Ruth & Pen is set over one day in October 2019 and shares two different perspectives: Ruth, whose marriage is currently in crisis after having another miscarriage and leaves her questioning whether she should stay with her husband or should she leave, and Pen, a teenage girl who is determined to finally reveal her feelings for her best friend Alice, which is going to take all the bravery she can get.
This book was wonderful, and it was a really gorgeous snapshot into two really important moments in each of these characters’ lives. There were quite a lot of issues addressed throughout this short novel, but Pine tackles each with such sensitivity and tenderness and makes it such a warm story for the reader. Although at times the subject matter of the novel can be heavy and can be tough for some to read, Pine has a sharp eye for curating that balance between where it gets too heavy and too deep. She never crosses that line, and instead delivers a more impactful story, with two extremely well-fleshed characters. Honestly, I felt as though I was right in Pen and Ruth’s heads, and can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so attached to a pair of characters, especially Pen.
This is a book full of such quiet moments that make up a storm. I think it is certainly going to be enjoyed by all who loved Notes to Self, as it touches on some of the same subjects, but I’m also certain that new readers to Emilie Pine will also fall in love with her poetic, poignant writing too.