As the late, great John Lennon once wrote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In my opinion, this quote sums up Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, well, beautifully.
I’m going to be honest and admit that the cover was what initially attracted me to this book. I know, we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but something about this gorgeous cover screamed a dated story set in Italy, and I couldn’t resist picking it up. Whoever designed this cover did well because, that is exactly how this story starts.
The story opens in 1960s Italy at a secluded hotel in a very small town. We meet Dee Moray, an American actress, and Pasquale, the young, Italian hotel owner. From that point on, the book is filled with twists and surprises, unfolding the stories of these two people, alternating between the past and the present.
The book started a little slowly for me, with lots of background information, and I was tempted to put it off until I had more time to commit to it. With my new semester starting this week, I was afraid it would take me forever to read this book and almost added it to next summer’s “to-be-read” pile. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself quickly caught up in the lives of these characters and anxious to not only unfold the mysteries of their pasts, but to find out what would become of their futures.
There was a good pace to this story. The alternating time periods and points of view kept surprising me – in a good way – as I read. This book left me thoughtful and reflective of life and the relationship choices we make. I also really enjoyed the ending. I think it ended perfectly, which was a relief to me, because I could have seen it going another way or being left unresolved.
At the heart of it, Beautiful Ruins is about life. It’s about relationships and mistakes and making choices, the choices that ultimately form our lives. One of my favorite passages from the book is as follows:
“But I think some people wait forever, and only at the end of their lives do they realize that their life has happened while they were waiting for it to start.” – Beautiful Ruins
This quote reminded me of the John Lennon quote shared above. I think the characters in Beautiful Ruins would say that truer words were never spoken.