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The Ruin: Kenneth Fenter

Monday, July 11, 2011
The Ruin is about a 14-year old boy, Cliff, who goes into self imposed seclusion into a cliff dwelling in a canyon in the footprint of Mesa Verde National Park. There in the high desert setting of southwestern Colorado, only a little over a mile from his family farm he faces the daunting task of re-building his sense of self-worth. In the end of the book at his emotional reconciliation with his father he says, "Dad, when I left, I was very angry at everyone. I had to get away and figure out how to control that. I also needed time to figure out just who I was and how I wanted to live my life."
The book is broken in five parts. Each part is introduced by Cliff as an adult. He is in the last week of a long successful teaching career. The first day of that retirement week turns tragic when a fellow teacher is murdered by her own son, who then goes to Cliff's sister school and kills students there. The boy's bloody response to bullying triggers Cliff's memories of being bullied during school.

Cliff went to the cave rather than shoot his nemesis, Hecator Rodriguez, even though he waited for him with rifle in hand until his rage had turned into fear of himself and what he was about to do. If he could contemplate killing Hector, was he also a danger to his parents? He had fled to remove himself from that threat.

In the cave dwelling of the Ancient Puebloans, the Anasazi, he learns to survive in the fashion of the First People - making fire from flint, fiber from plants, clothes from pelts, and food from cattails, dandelions, sunflowers, corn, beans and pinyon nuts. He also hunts with his atlatl, a spear-thrower.

He also learns from an ancient hunter, who appears in a dream, "Adversity presents unique opportunity, a moment of time in God's wilderness, use the time wisely." He doesn't understand about the dream, but takes the meaning as he understands it to heart.

The novel is set in the area where the author, Kenneth Fenter spent his childhood through grade school and high school. The farm methods and chores that he describes Cliff being responsible for were part of the daily life that he and all the other farm boys of the area at that time were responsible for. His family owned a farm on the Summit Ridge plateau that is laced with canyons similar to the canyon described in the book. Family outings were spent at Mesa Verde and roaming the canyons looking for Indian Ruins. Fenter, in the acknowledgments indicates that he was subjected to bullying in gradeschool and used his own experience to "walk in the shoes" of his character. Fenter also in the acknowledgment recalls being at Springfield High School, in Springfield, Oregon in 1998 during the morning of the Thurston High School shooting. He calls on his experience then to write the chapters that introduce the sections in the Ruin.

Good Reads Summary

This is a very impressive plot line.  The reader will be immediately drawn in to the novel.  What 14 year old boy goes into the wild by choice?  The author highlights the issue at hand: bullying.  He does it very tactfully and manages to sound diplomatic.  The main character is a very intriguing young man who has many of the survival skills necessary to live in the wild with no supervision;  in this day and age, that is incredibly impressive.  The idea that a potential shooting incident was averted because the poor character being picked on and bullied chose self-exile is shocking to say the least-most people would not think that that was a solution.  However, the author shows how therapeutic and healing the self-imposed exile is.  The details of the main character's time in the wild will keep the reader interested throughout the novel.  This book is recommended for young adults/adults who enjoy inspiring novels. 

4 stars