Cover Image: What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

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I wanted to love this a lot but it felt very YA for me which is not my favourite, and given that the sisters were grown I didn’t expect that going in. Thanks to the publisher for the eARC!

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I was really excited for this one. Ugh, I read 20% of it and could not get into it even though I kept trying. The story line was there, but I think it was happening too slowly. All of what happened up until 20% could have developed much quicker. And up until 20% not much other character development had happened so it seemed like there weren't other sub plots happening to keep the story going.

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WHAT HAPPENED TO RUTHY RAMIREZ follows the lives of the Ramirez women after the disappearance of teenage middle child, Ruthy. When watching reality TV one day, they spot someone who appears to be their vanished sister and begin a new search in earnest.

Jimenez does a very well-drawn character study of people in grief and the different ways they cope and internalize. The mom and each sister felt like such real people, and you could feel their pain and attempt to keep moving forward in life despite having lost a family member. The characterization stood out to me most in this novel.

I also appreciated that we had moments from Ruthy's point of view. She deserved to have her own voice, and I'm glad the author gave space for that.

I see what the author was trying to do by putting in the segments about the reality TV show, but those detracted from the story for me. They made important points about how America is both obsessed with and vilifies women of color, but it felt like a separate story.

Overall this was a really solid debut, and I'll definitely be checking out the author's future works.

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I enjoyed the first third of this book and then it just did not deliver on any of the setups that I was hoping. I did like the ending and how you do find out what happened to Ruthy Ramirez and I do love a sad book ending.

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"What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez" is a poignant debut that takes readers on an emotional journey through the fractured lives of a Puerto Rican family in Staten Island. The narrative revolves around the discovery that their long-lost sister, Ruthy, might be alive and participating in a reality TV show.

The novel skillfully explores the complexities of familial bonds, touching on themes of generational violence, colonialism, race, and silence. The characters, vividly depicted with snark, resentment, tenderness, and love, contribute to a rich family portrait that feels raw and authentic.

This story is more than a family drama; it's a vivid exploration of the human experience, where love and loss intersect in unexpected ways. The narrative is a testament to the enduring strength of family ties and the resilience required to face the shattered reality of their lives.

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I heard about What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez on an NPR interview and immediately came over to NetGalley to request an early copy. Thank you so much for the opportunity to read and review, I truly enjoyed this story.

At age 13, Ruthy Ramirez goes missing. Everyone searches for her but she isn't found.
Life goes on.

Ten years later, her sisters Jessica and Nina catch a glimpse of Ruthy on a tv reality show, Cat Fight. They are certain it's her -- same hair, same laugh, same beauty mark under her eye. They try to keep this knowledge from their mom, they don't want to upset her more. But a mom always knows, right? She finds out about this secret the two of them have been keeping, and together they travel to another city to bring Ruthy home.


What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is a story about familial love, tragedy and resilience. Their story made me emotional. I am so very grateful to say that in many ways I can't relate to the Ramirez family. But their problems were so real and I know that there are readers who can relate (both for good and bad reasons). I hope those that do can use this story to help heal.


***mini spoiler
Near the end of the book I thought we will never know for sure what happened to Ruthy, and I was ok with that. As much as I wanted an answer to the question I thought that leaving it open to the reader worked.
But then we learn the truth and it broke my heart. It made me sad for these characters but also because it made me acknowledge that all of the horrible things that occurred through out this story happen everyday.

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Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. There are things I liked about this book. The title itself, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez draws the reader in simply wanting to know more about the story. We learn that 13 year old Ruthy Ramirez disappeared and years later, her sisters are sure they have found her on a reality TV show called Catfight. The author reveals their Staten Island, Puerto Rican culture through the dialog that takes place among the mom, daughters and community. While some reviewers have complained about the overuse of the word “fuck,” I think it helps us “hear” the way they communicate with each other. No one wants to seem too soft or emotional or weak. We see that in many ways throughout the story.
What I don’t like about the story is that there are pieces that are left underdeveloped. We don’t know enough about what happened to the dad. We don’t know enough about Ruthy’s relationship with her family. We aren’t given time to care much about Ruthy except for what anyone would feel about a missing young person.
Jimenez does a great job of building our expectations and curiosity as the story builds. I won’t spoil anything from there. I did keep turning the pages and wanted to know what was going to happen. I can’t say I would recommend this, however.

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The Ramirez women, residing on Staten Island, revolve around a void—the absence of thirteen-year-old Ruthy, the middle child, who vanished without a trace after track practice, leaving the family scarred and in disarray. Twelve years later, a revelation on a raunchy reality show, Catfight, catches the attention of the oldest sister, Jessica. The woman on screen, with dyed red hair and the unmistakable beauty mark under her left eye, goes by the name Ruby. Could it possibly be Ruthy, reemerging after all these years?

The narrative delves deeply into the exploration of grief, capturing the profound impact on multiple generations of Puerto Rican women who mourn Ruthy's disappearance. Despite maintaining a glimmer of hope for her return, the relentless grief takes a toll on the Ramirez women, affecting them both emotionally and physically. The portrayal of the Ramirez women is captivating—fiery, flawed, and marked by the tragedy that has shattered their lives. These characters feel authentic, reminiscent of real women with whom one could connect and empathize. The witty banter among friends and siblings adds a dynamic layer, although at times, it may verge on being overwhelming. Furthermore, the incorporation of Puerto Rican culture into the narrative adds an enriching dimension, providing readers with a glimpse into a vibrant cultural backdrop.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for sending a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Such a touching story about two Puerto Rican sisters living on Staten Island who think they've found their third sister who went missing years before. There's lots of dysfunctional family drama and the ending packs one hell of a punch.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for the copy to review.

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Over a decade after 13-year-old Ruthy Ramirez never returns home after track practice, her oldest sister, Jessica, discovers Ruthy on TV in a tasteless reality show called “Catfight.” It could simply be someone who looks just like the missing Ramirez sister, but from Ruthy’s laugh to the beauty mark under her eye, Jessica is sure the woman on TV — who goes by Ruby — is Ruthy. Utilizing multiple viewpoints, Jiménez deftly tells a story of one Puerto Rican family’s tragic history and how grief can manifest itself differently. But “What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez” is in no way a heavy read. Jiménez’s snark writing makes for a quick and amusing novel while commenting on the representation of women of color in media. “The book’s humor alongside Jiménez’s willingness to include everything from pop culture to intergenerational trauma is the reason this book is a page-turner,” a starred Kirkus Reviews reads. “Jiménez brings bravery to the page, and it’s her strong storytelling and humor that make this an outstanding debut.”

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Quick read with some interesting mother/daughter/sibling dynamics. I ultimately found this unsatisfying because I wanted more resolution, but if you're in it for the family dynamics you'd enjoy more!

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The Ramirezes were rocked by the disappearance of middle daughter Ruthy 15 years ago. When older sister Jessica spots a young woman on a reality TV show who she thinks is Ruthy, she convinces her youngest sister Nina to join her on a trip to confront her. But when her mother — and her mother’s nosy best friend—insist on coming along too, it turns into a strange family road trip that forces them to reconcile their past with their future.

This is a beautiful story about the lingering heartbreak after brown and Black girls go missing. Claire Jiménez perfectly balances the crushing grief of Ruthy's disappearance with a delightful sense of humor. I love how each of the characters in the Ramirez family fit together and play off of each other. A nuanced and powerful story I won't forget.

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“What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez” is a novel by Claire Jiménez. The book tells the story of Ruthy Ramirez, a thirteen-year-old girl who disappeared after track practice one day and was never seen again. The novel is set in a Pentecostal Puerto Rican community in Staten Island and is told from the alternating perspectives of Ruthy’s younger and older sisters, Nina and Jessica; her mother, Dolores; and Ruthy herself. More than a decade after Ruthy’s disappearance, Jessica is convinced she’s seen her on a reality TV series called Catfight. Jessica and Nina begin binge-watching the show, analyzing every detail about the woman onscreen, comparing her with their memories of Ruthy and their expectations of whether a near-homeless raging alcoholic is the woman Ruthy could have grown up to become. They try to keep this secret from their diabetic mother, but their plan unravels when Dolores figures out that they’re not heading off to a retreat for young Christian women but are instead driving to Boston, where the show is filmed.

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Short synopsis: Ruthy disappeared in the 90s, and her family has been searching NG for her since. Jessica and Nina think they see their missing sister Ruthy - now going by Ruby - on a reality TV show.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this story full of family, Puerto Rican culture, 90s nostalgia, and NYC life.

The four different POV (the three sisters and their mother) really gave us a great perspective on what was happening during Ruthy’s disappearance.

I was intrigued by the storyline centering around the problem of so many unsolved cases of missing Black and brown girls. I do wish it focused more on the actual missing person rather than the family drama.

Read if you love:
- 90s pop culture and music
- loud and crazy family
-Puerto Rican rep
- love an NYC setting

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the copy of this book!

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This was one of those books that just didn't work for me. I was interested in the central character and setting, but they didn't bring enough satisfaction to make me want to keep reading.

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What happened to Ruth Ramirez This book got me hooked from the beginning. Ruthy disappeared when she was 13 years old her mother is of course depressed. Years later her sisters think they see her in a reality show. This book has some humor and I enjoyed the sibling relationships. Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for this arc. Please check triggers before reading

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Years ago, when she was 13 years old, Ruthy Ramirez disappeared after track practice without a trace. And over a decade later, the rest of the Ramirez women – her older sister Jessica, her younger sister Nina, and her mother Dolores – are all still deeply affected by the mystery of what happened to her, as well as the daily mundanities and trials of their individual lives. When Jessica spots someone she is sure is Ruthy, on a late night reality tv show, she sets into motion an amateur family sleuthing project, tracking down details and making a plan to drive to the show’s shooting location and bring maybe-Ruthy back home. Whether or not the woman in the show actually is Ruthy or not, the road trip and subsequent reckoning will force the family to finally face the past and deal with what’s next.

Well, in addition to all the other copies of this I had, I waited long enough to read it that I was also able to get the audiobook from my library. So to just really quickly start with that listening experience, Jiménez narrates herself and I really enjoyed it. There was a spoken word quality to her performance that adds great rhythm and expression to the storytelling. I had to listen at a much slower rate than I normally do, as a result, but it was worth it. As for the writing itself, and the narration most definitely deepened this impression, it was incredibly raw. There was so much emotion and personality in it, stylistically. Although I felt like, at times, there was also a choppiness to it, that grew on me as I read/listened, and by the end I could see the way that, too, fit the energy of the book.

I also really liked the way this novel was told from the perspectives of each of the Ramirez women, including a “day of the disappearance” unfolding from Ruthy’s perspective. Each of the women had a strong, distinct voice (Dolores’ in particular was quite robust, and really reminded me of the live-wire-ness of the MC/narrator in How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water, which I loved). And for Ruthy, I loved the look we got at the typical, everyday things she was enjoying and dealing with on that final day. It provides a heartbreaking look at the lost girls – brown and Black girls specifically – that don’t make the big headlines that get public attention and support. And that they are complex and real and human in all the same ways and despite the greatness or smallness of whatever their lives are, they deserve the same care and attention and support. Jiménez takes this even further with Jessica and Nina’s perspectives, that of those who are left behind and/or who face their own hidden traumas because of cultural norms, shame and stigma of talking about it. The way she is able to portray the ways they too are lost/missing – in the cracks – in their own unique ways, is spectacularly affecting.

Overall, this novel was more about the family and their reactions than it was about the sudden reappearance of Ruthy and tracking her down. And while I’m not against that, it did feel just a bit different than advertised, so I’m just sharing for future reader awareness. And I do want to leave this review with the feeling the novel left me with. The pain of everlasting hope for a “happy” ending, without the closure that would allow one to move on from that not being the case, is palpable here. Jiménez presents here a devastating face-on consideration of how the many people who live this as a daily reality move through that pain. This is fiction reflective of, and with commentary on, reality at its finest.

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I appreciated the realness in which Jiménez portrayed her characters and how she didn’t hold back from displaying their raw, authentic selves. I mainly give this book three stars because I feel like there was a lot of conflict happening between the characters, which is fine, however I wanted more introspection and unpacking of the emotional dynamics underlying each of the characters’ behaviors and thoughts. If the plot had slowed down and given the characters’ histories and growth more time to breathe, I think What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez could have been an even stronger debut.

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I haven't laughed that much through an entire book in a while. 🤣 I needed that.

Ruthy Ramirez has been missing for twelve years. One night her sister Jessica is watching a reality show named “Catfight” and sees a woman that looks to be about Ruthy’s age (25 now). She has a beauty mark under her left eye, just like Ruthy has. It has to be her, doesn’t it? She tells her younger sister Nina, and before you know it, they are on their way to go find Ruthy. But not before their mother Dolores finds out about it and then of course her friend Irene, and they both have to join as well (OMG Irene was a hoot!!).

I thought that this was an impressive debut from Claire Jimenez. Why so much laughter about a book with such a heavy topic? Well, that’s just the thing, the majority of the book focuses on the trip to find Ruthy, not the fact that she has disappeared or what happened to her. And what a trip it was!!! I laughed to the point of tears on many occasions. It reminded me of my friend who lives in Staten Island. They just have their own style/vibe up there. The book really focused on the bonds that women share, and I love the personal light and influence Jimenez was able to share on Puerto Rican families.

This is a short book coming in at only 240 pages. So, if you are looking for a quick read that gives you a chuckle, look no further. I am looking forward to reading more work from Jimenez in the future.

Thanks to Net Galley for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Strong characters and dialogue make this an interesting read. Told from varying character perspectives, including Ruthy, A deep dive into family dynamics and dysfunction, this novel shows how someone can deeply affect another by not being present.

Thank you Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for the ARC!

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