Cover Image: What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

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Member Reviews

Thirteen-year-old Ruthy Ramirez disappeared after track practice years ago, but in Claire Jimenez’s debut novel readers feel the ramifications still affecting her family. What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez uses chapters written in the voices of Ruthy’s two sisters and her mom, and also a chorus-like voice of Ruthy to examine a family destroyed but trying to hold together after tragedy. Jimenez manages to craft a humorous novel and make all of the characters ring true as she delves into their pasts and explores contemporary themes of family, poverty, racism, and violence against women. An excellent debut for readers of Angie Cruz, Julia Alvarez, and other character-driven literary fiction.

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I just finished and the ending made me kind of sad. Being the oldest daughter and being raised in a Puerto Rican household I felt seen through a lot of these characters in different aspects. I felt like sometimes the characters would ramble a bit and wondered if it had to do with the plot of the story (most times it didn’t) but overall I reallly really enjoyed this book and my heart was left aching for the Ramirez family.

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What a poignant and hilarious story of a big and boisterous Puerto Rican family living in New York in 2008.

Ruthy disappeared in grade school and the family has never been the same. The mother struggles with depression, the father has passed from health issues and the remaining daughters juggle responsibilities, guilt and anger as they try to live their lives. When a Ruthy look alike named "Ruby" appears on a combative reality show, the family is thrown back into turmoil as they make a plan to reconnect.

If you like a raucous family story this is the book for you!
#GrandCentralPub #WhatHappenedToRuthyRamirez #ClaireJimenez

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All is well in the Ramirez household until 13-year-old middle child Ruthy disappeared without a trace after track practice. It left the family scarred. Twelve years later, their mother, Dolores, struggles with mental health, weight gain and diabetes. Older sister Jessica juggles a newborn baby and demanding hospital job. And Nina has returned home after graduating college to medical school rejections and a measly retail job in the mall.

Then one night, Jessica spots a woman with her missing sister's distinctive red hair and beauty mark on a Bad Girls type reality show going by the name of Ruby. After seeing Ruthy/Ruby on TV, the sisters hatch a plan to drive to Boston where the show is filmed. Dolores and her best friend join the sisters making it a family road trip filled with humor and hard truths, told in alternating narration that brings out each character's personality oh so perfectly.

Family dynamics in fiction are always fascinating to read. Especially when the family is going through drama like the Puerto Rican family, Ramirez. Their road trip from Staten Island to Boston is one that will make readers LOL while appreciating the culture and light mystery.

The best part of the novel wasn't even finding out what happened to Ruthy; it was the relationship between Dolores and her two remaining daughters, Nina and Jessica. Another major theme was self-realization and how you see yourself vs. how others see you. This was obviously the author's intent since the road trip to find Ruthy doesn't start until 80% through the book. It was the better story to tell up to very last sentence!

Very good first impression for a debut novel! What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is equal parts hilarious and intriguing. It explores the familial bonds between mothers, daughters and sisters. Usually I am not a fan of alternating narration, but Claire Jiménez nails it! This story could not have been told any other way. I recommend for chick lit lovers and book clubs for minority women. Get lost in this well written debut featuring strong Brown women! I'll keep an eye out for more from Claire Jiménez.

Happy Early Pub Day, Claire Jiménez! What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez will be available Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

Disclaimer: An advance copy was received directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.


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The humor in this debut novel kept me going to the end. I loved the Staten Island women, especially Dolores - the mother of Jessica, Ruthy, and Nina. The plot revolves around the disappearance of thirteen-year-old Ruthy. She never came home from track practice. Ruthy was the athletic middle child who would back-talk anyone and pounce on those who deserved it.

Ruthy disappeared twenty years ago. Jessica, a young mother now, works as a nurse's aide, and Nina, a college graduate, could only find a job in the Staten Island Mall in a lingerie store. Both women have loads to be angry about. But when Jessica thinks she sees Ruthy on a Boston-based reality show, the fever pitch of the story runs wild.

The story is a tragedy, but Claire Jimenez manages to slip in pearls of hilarity as I read and hoped that they would find Ruthy. I laughed out loud when Jessica (each character has a POV chapter) described her mother's friend, Irene's hairstyle. It is done weekly to look like Whitney Houston in the movie Bodyguard. As Jessica tells it in a taut scene, she looks like she is running to the song "I will Always Love You."I laughed out loud and cried for the women's grief and sorrow at living without Ruthie and trying to survive as Puerto Rican women in our society.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book.

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Both funny and sad, this debut novel centers around the Ramirez women - Ruthy, who went missing at 13 in 1996, as well as the mom and sisters she left behind. Told from multiple perspectives, we struggle to learn what happened to Ruthy - did she run away? And is that really her they’ve spotted on a reality show 12 years later? A fast, absorbing read.

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(3.5 stars) Ruthy Ramirez is 13 when she goes missing on her way home from track practice. Her disappearance hits her Puerto Rican family – especially her two sisters and mother – hard, as would be expected. Twelve years later, Ruthy’s sisters happen to see someone who fits Ruthy’s appearance (right age, red hair, birthmark under left eye) on a raunchy girls’ reality show called Catfight. Even the young woman’s name – Ruby – is close enough to Ruthy to be suspect. The sisters plan a road trip to Boston, where the show is being filmed, but their mother finds out and demands to be included, along with her best friend. What happens next is a little crazy, but fitting, for this close yet brash family of females.

I enjoyed this read. The various viewpoints through which the story is told all feel authentic as Staten Island Latina residents. There is sadness, as would be expected given a disappearance of a young girl, but there is also plenty of humor and familial love. It’s a well-rounded and well-written book.
Thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for allowing me access to an e-ARC of this title.

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(3.5 stars)

I love a character driven novel, especially when the characters are as relatable as the Ramirez family!

When 13 year old Ruthy goes missing her family doesn’t get much help from the Staten Island police, school, or neighborhood. Life goes on for Ruthy’s family, but 12 years older sister Jessica thinks she recognizes Ruthy on a Reality T.V. show and plots to track this Ruthy look-a-like down.

I enjoyed how descriptive the author was with each character's personality and with the dialogue between the family members. At times I was laughing out loud, yet another time after reading a confession from sister Jessica I had to stop and take a break because it was so heartbreaking. As a latina with 2 sisters, I definitely understood the drama!

The only issue for me was all the questions I was left with at the end, like what did the letter Ruthy wrote to her best friend Yesenia say? What is the book's overall message? Was it to point out when a person of color goes missing it’s not a priority but some kind of norm? I look forward to reading more by this author and other reviews.

Thank you NetGalley & Grand Central Publishing for allowing me access to an e-ARC of this title.

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This was a touching story about racial mistreatment, cultural differences and the love of a mother and sister for their child/sister. I found it absorbing although the fight at the end was a bit of a surprise—perhaps to get the point across. As a white woman who has not had to face racial discrimination (just gender discrimination in health care work), I gained some insight into the experience—that alone made it worth reading. The book also had a bit of humor and good character development. For all of us mothers out there, I thank the author for telling this story about how long love lasts and how it changes our lives.

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I read an ARC of this and absolutely loved it! It follows two sisters and their mom after seeing who they think is Ruthy, their sister who went missing at age 13 on a reality TV show. This story was very heartwarming and funny, with a touch of mystery. This would be perfect for fans of Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid!

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Thank you to #NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

This story follows Staten Island’s Ramirez family years after middle daughter, Ruthy goes missing, when her sisters believe they see her on a “Bad Girls Club”-style reality show. The perspective shifts throughout the text, allowing you a glimpse into each Ramirez sister’s circumstances and belief systems, as well as their mother’s. I might have preferred more differentiation between the voices, but each was clear, honest, and full of 90’s references. I read eagerly, determined to solve the sisters’ mysteries for myself. This is an incisive, understated social commentary.

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TW: child sexual abuse, weight/eating

This debut novel shows a lot of promise. The book's marketing seems a bit distant from the book itself - it seems to be sort of a fun, what happens when you see your long lost sibling on a TV show sort of book from the description, but the book itself is actually more of an exploration of familial trauma and how it impacts each member of a family differently.

The book touched on tons of topics I find fascinating to read about: for example, being the first in your family to go to college, dealing with grief, the child welfare system, the base desires satisfied by reality tv. But the book was told from multiple perspectives, and it limited the book's depth on any of these difficult and interesting topics that were discussed. The book also contained a lot of child sexual abuse, but because the discussion ended up being fairly limited, the reader was left to analyze that on their own.

One issue that I think the novel really fell flat on was discussion of weight/weight loss/etc. One of the character having gained a lot of weight during grief and then losing lots of it was discussed without much sensitivity at all, and while I can understand that a character might not be body positive, in a book with multiple perspectives, including that of this particular character, I really wished someone would treat the issue with some dignity.

This book is about grief and coping and how families pull together or fall apart. I wish it had been longer or perhaps contained fewer perspectives so that the author had more room to go deeper on some of these topics.

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I believe this book will appeal to some teen readers but I found there was too much going on and from too many perspectives. It seemed to try address too many difficult issues and not do any of the really well. The missing sister discovered on the reality show was intriguing and I wish they had just followed maybe two characters and not so many.

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I worry that perhaps I came into this book thinking it was going to be more of a mystery/thriller then it actually was. A majority of this book is about the lives of Jess, Nina and their mom- not Ruthy. It was written well and I cared about the characters and the unfair, systemic challenges that they faced… but I also found myself wondering when the story would go back to Ruthy. All this is to say that this book is more of a story about how three women struggle through life after a traumatic event than it is about trying to find a missing daughter. I think if I better knew what this book would be, I would have enjoyed it more because I wouldn’t have been waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen. Again, I deeply cared about the characters and appreciated the bits of humor in such a dark book.

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This is officially the best thing I’ve read all year.

Thanks Netgalley for the chance to read.

This is the story of the women in the Ramirez family.

Two sisters Jess and Nina are convinced their missing sister is a reality show participant on the show Catfight. Think like classic VH1 reality show. She looks like her, talks like her, even has the same birthmark.

I am such a sucker for stories of sisterhood. The back and forth telling between the sisters, their mom and even Ruthy is just such a honest tale of love, grief, Puerto Rican generational womanhood, and hope.

I can’t wait for this to get to everyone!

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