Saving Ruth: Reviews


It’s impossible not to love Ruth Wasserman, even as she finds it impossible to love herself. Saving Ruth offers a serious-comic look at growing up a sharp-tongued liberal Jewish girl in a conservative Alabama town.Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughters


Publishers Weekly

Most teens pack on the dreaded “freshman fifteen” their first year at college, but 19-year-old Ruth’s first year triggers an eating disorder that turns the likable smart-aleck pudge into a rail-thin introvert—and unlikely hero. Ruth’s agonizing personal crisis comes to a head during her summer break. “I’m scared of food… scared that I’ll gain weight,” she finally confesses to a nine-year-old girl who idolizes her. Still, Ruth manages to find romance with her brother’s best friend Chris, who sees beyond her delusions. As Ruth battles her demons, her parents struggle with an empty nest and a stale relationship, while “golden child” brother David, guarding a troubling secret, grows weary under the weight of others’ expectations. Ruth and David also face simmering racial and anti-Semitic tensions in their modern-day Southern town—insidious prejudices that rear their heads when Ruth saves a black child who nearly drowns at the pool where Ruth and David are lifeguards. Fishman (Balancing Acts) deftly works a small love story around larger themes of loyalty, courage, and social justice, turning what begins as adolescent angst into a touching bildungsroman.



Home from college for the summer with her Jewish family in small-town Alabama, Ruth Wasserman gets a job with her older brother, David, coaching and lifeguarding small kids at the local pool. She is happy to have lost excess weight, a lot of it. Everyone says she is too skinny, but she obsesses: Is it enough? And
what is going on with soccer-star David: Why is he so distant? This could be a YA novel, but adult readers, especially parents, will also be caught up in Ruth’s wry personal narrative about friends, boyfriends, prejudice, self-image, and especially family secrets. Ruth saves a little black girl from drowning in the pool, but why did David miss it? Will the child’s family sue for damages? Ruth covers up for David, until, finally, the star brother reveals his failures. Never heavy-handed, the dialogue is right on, and so are Ruth’s hidden battles with her eating disorder. — Hazel Rochman


Library Journal

After going off to college as a slightly overweight young Jewish woman from the South who lived in the shadow of a golden older brother, Ruth Wasserman returns for summer break anorexic and uncertain. Puzzled by her brother’s emotional distance and frustrated by her anxious parents, she is happiest at the local pool coaching young swimmers and lifeguarding. Oddly enough, even that respite is shattered when Ruth, rather than her brother, saves a young girl from drowning. Instead of being a hero, she becomes the holder of secrets and the potential target of a lawsuit. And to top it all off, Ruth is falling for her brother’s best friend. She could crumble under the tension of competing loyalties, but she’s made of sterner stuff and capable of loving her family enough to see them through a crisis or two. VERDICT Ruth is a likable character facing realistic trials, and her story will appeal to both mothers and college-age daughters. Author interview and book club questions are added bonuses; Fishman is also the author of Balancing Acts.—Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC

Stephanie Elliot, She Knows Real Moms Guide & MaNiC MoMMy: “Zoe Fishman took me right back to my 19-year-old self and it felt wonderful to be there, to revisit those feelings, no matter how tumultuous those feelings were at the time.”

Fresh Fiction: “A powerful story about embracing yourself and the truths about those around you.”

She Knows: “When I read Zoe Fishman’s novel, Saving Ruth, I was immediately transported back to my own memories of how my life looked after getting away from it for a while.”

Jennifer Vido: “A truly poignant story worth the read.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/23/12 – Saving Ruth featured as “A Cool Read for Summertime” in their May 23rd edition 

The Book Bag“The writing just flowed off of the page and into my mind. I felt very comfortable in Ruth’s world right from the start.”

Travel Spot –  “I liked Ruth and her family. I found her believable and likeable and at times both immature and mature for her age. I really wanted her to succeed and I felt that she did, in her own way.”

Atlanta Magazine, June 2012 Saving Ruth featured on Teresa Weaver’s Bookshelf as a Summer Reading pick

Tiffany’s Bookshelf“This book is completely captivating…a wonderful read for the summer. I think (it) will appeal to adult readers, as well as the more mature young adult readers.”

Atlanta Jewish Times, June 8,2012  – “…an ideal summer read…addictive…a great book for mothers and daughters to read together…Of the coming of age stories I have read, Saving Ruth is one of my favorites because it is a modern spin on the classic bildungsroman novel that we read in high school. I highly recommend this book for its fun, easygoing nature and relatable characters.” – Jessie Miller

Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 1, 2012 – “A noteworthy new paperback.”

Reviewed by Mom:“Fishman does a great job of exploring family dynamics (the perceived “perfect child” vs “the troublemaker”) and I was actually very touched by how the characters of David and Ruth interacted with each other.  The fighting and awkwardness and hurt feelings are something many siblings feel toward one another and (she) nailed this.” 

It’s A Crazy, Beautiful Life: “I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a summer read that is much more than fluff, without being too heavy on the dramatics.”

Small World Reads: “I liked the novel. It took me back to that place and time quite easily—Fishman does a great job of capturing the thoughts of a 19-year-old….I also enjoyed this novel as the parent of two teens because it reminded me about how much our words can affect our kids.”i

i write in books:  “A hard look at the way we attach and detach from our families and communities of origin, Saving Ruth is more than a simple anorexia afterschool special. Thick with racial, sexual and other social tension, the book is perfect for those looking for a bit of a heavier summer read.”  There’s a certain element of story magic in truly remarkable books. These novels harness the power to take a reader back in time, to propel them into the future, and to make the present feel like a glorious endless moment. They’re the kind of books you don’t ever want to leave, must be forced to put down, and feel like crying when the story is over. SAVING RUTH by Zoe Fishman is that kind of book. It’s a timeless story of a girl coming of age, returning home, and finding herself. – Paige Crutcher

Steph the Bookworm: I would have loved to able to go up to Ruth and give her a hug and tell her she’s a wonderful person and I think you will too.

Jewish Woman Magazine: Saving Ruth featured as one of “8 Books to Enjoy This Summer”

A New York Post Summer Pick: “poignant and gripping”

Jenn’s Bookshelves: A truly rewarding novel, one that I see being discussed at book clubs due to the sheer volume of discussion-worthy topics. It is a novel I devoured in one sitting, a book that took me back to my youth and all the issues of that age. Highly recommended.

Karen White of Home Cooked Books: The title “Saving Ruth” is perfectly apt.  Ruth, working so hard to save her charges on the swim team, the overweight tween she’s strong armed into working out with, as well as her family and friends, finally has to face up that she needs to save herself from herself.  That journey is moving, sometimes hilarious, and overall inspiring.

Lilith Magazine, Summer Issue (Volume 37, No.2): In one of her incisive short poems, the English poet Stevie Smith assumes the voice of a dead man : ‘I was much further out that you thought,’ he moans, ‘I was much too far out all my life / And not waving but drowning.’ Luckily for the heroine of this quietly powerful novel…her friends and family do realize that she is drowning, even while she insists that she is waving. Fishman richly captures the feel of summer evenings in the deep South…and she takes us fully into the struggle of one young woman to allow herself to be saved by the people who love her. – Joyce Zonana

Estelle of Rather Be Reading: Fishman has created a well-written work that manages to weave in various storylines and not pollute the pages with too much of anything. She has a refreshing and simple style that was easy to connect with and I couldn’t put the novel down. (Sidenote: there’s also some romance and I mention that because it’s sweet but also I love how Fishman doesn’t make it bigger than it ought to be.) In fact, I was utterly sad when it was over. In the end this book is about people vying for control of their lives and how that control is so fragile. So it’s also about learning how to let go, go with the flow, and why that isn’t always the easy thing to do.

School Library Journal: This is a well written, quick read with wide teen appeal. Ruth is
believable, and her dialogue with David is in true sibling form. The
characters are not stereotyped, and the complicated racial tensions,
along with Ruth’s concern about beauty and conformity, convey the unique
culture of one small southern town
.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

The Brooklyn Rail:  Indeed, there’s plenty here for Fishman’s Chick Lit fanbase to chew on:
mother-daughter drama, self-esteem issues, the limits of friendship,
and—of course—sex and romance. But in Saving Ruth the family is
the focus, and Fishman is at her best when delving deep into the ties
that bind, especially what happens to siblings embroiled in the kind of
trouble that Mom or Dad can’t make go away.  The author’s rendering of
Ruth and David’s intertwining fates is the heart and soul of the story.
Fishman’s challenge is keeping the sibling story front and center, and
this isn’t always easy in a novel that—in addition to anorexia and
family dysfunction—also tackles a handful of other social and political
“isms.” But the refreshingly frank and bullshit-free portrayal of Ruth
and David’s journey to (new) adulthood keeps this book from drowning in
issues. – Bernard Lumpkin

Jewish Book Council:  With a less skilled writer, all this could bog down a novel but Fishman
achieves the right balance, and coupled with well developed, likable,
and three-dimensional characters, the story stays focused and
compelling. – Rachel Kamin

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