Ruth remembered drowning.
"That’s impossible", Aunt Amanda said. "It must have been a dream."
But Ruth maintained that she had drowned, insisted on it for years, even after she should have known better.

Drowning Ruth is a story settled in the years after World War I, in a small rural community near Nagawaukee Lake. Two sister are bound together by a secret that will change their lives forever, and hurt the people around them.

Amanda Starkey is a nurse who leaves her job to take some rest in the family’s farm, where her younger sister Mathilda lives with her three-year-old daughter Ruth. When Mathilda’s husband comes back from the Great War to heal his wounds, hoping to be reunited with his beloved wife, he learns that she is dead; she has been found drowned in the lake. He discovers that his sister-in-law Amanda has taken charge of the farm and raises Ruth like her own daughter, handling both the farm and Ruth with a pathological possessiveness.

What really happened the night Mathilda drowned? What course of events lead to the tragic death? Why does Ruth also remember drowning? The novel unfolds its plot, page after page, as the characters reveal what they know or what they remember. Christina Schwartz has managed to turn a simple plot into a rather complex story, giving away the elements bits by bits to her readers, as they are allowed insights into Ruth’s or Amanda’s consciousness. Over two generations, as Ruth herself becomes a young adult and struggles to recover lost memories, the truth leading to Mathilda’s drowning emerges. The final revelation, like a curse, will bring about its dramatic consequences among the young generation.

Christina Schwartz’s Drowning Ruth is a promising first novel, a suspenseful and gripping story of madness, guilt, secrecy, and family ties, a story that could only have taken place in the past, when social conventions prevailed…

Rating: 3/5