Cover Image: What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

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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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2 stars!

I was super excited for this book because it reminded me somewhat of Bekah Martinez from The Bachelor and I love a book set in a reality TV setting. I don't mind books that are more vibes than plot, but this book was a little too heavy on the only vibes. I didn't find this book funny, although I think that was the intention, and although I don't mind swear words this one had a lot. Enough that I noticed. Some of the characters felt very surface level, and although I'm not upset I read it, it wasn't the worse.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Ruthy Ramirez goes missing on a typical days. The story slowly reveals the day of Ruthy's disappearance and all the things she experience that day. It also gives the POV of the Mom and 2 sisters that were left behind in the midst of the disappearance. It was an interesting look at the family, each person with their own struggles and ways of handling their missing family member.

Once we hit the turning point, the sisters watching an overly dramatic reality drama and think one of the girls on there looks exactly like their missing sister, it's a fast moving plot and quick read.

And I did like this story. I liked the details and the lighter moments to break up the more serious ones. But I think this story had a very powerful message, about missing women and how no one seems to worry too much about finding them - except the family. But the message seemed a little subdued, even the family seemed sad but like they had moved on from their missing sibling as well.

This one did handled a few tough topics lightly but well. I'd definitely read more from this author.

A huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

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This debut novel drew me to its story just from the image on the book cover and the all imposing question of…. Where is she? Instantly this screams, …Missing … and Mysterious. As the story unfolds, the lives of her family members are explored as they all experience their own level of grief and anger and hope about… the Missing. Ruthy was someone’s daughter, sister, friend, and even I as a reader was filled with hope and expectation at the turn of every page. Great YA read!

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This novel is about a Puerto Rican family living in Staten Island. Years before, 13 year old Ruthy, one of the three daughters, went missing. Now, her two adult sisters, harried new mom Jessica and new college graduate Nina, think they have spotted her on a girls behaving badly type reality docuseries and become obsessed with whether Ruby on the show is actually the now grown up Ruthy. The book is told from both of their perspectives along with their mom and chapters about Ruthy in the past.

It’s interesting, although the driving questions in this book are both whether Ruby is Ruthy, and what happened to Ruthy in the past, it’s not really a mystery. It’s just as much of more a dysfunctional family drama. It has some funny moments, but mostly I just found it really depressing.

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Extremely fast and poignant. I caught myself thinking in ways the book knew I would. A perspective-changer.

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A huge thank you to the folks at GCP and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

The Ramirez women live in Staten Island, NY. Dolores is the mother of Jessica, Nina, and Ruthy... the latter of whom went missing after track practice when she was 13 and has been gone ever since. 12 years later, Dolores is still struggling with the loss, Jessica a mother juggling a job at the hospital, and Nina completed four years of college only to graduate with no job, except the one her sister gets her at the lingerie store.

One day, Jessica spots a woman on a reality TV show whom she swears is her long-lost sister. After seeing this version of Ruthy (who goes by Ruby on the show), Nina and Jessica plan to drive out to the "Catfight Condo" to find their sister. Dolores finds out about their plan and joins them, bringing her church bestie, Irene, with them.

From the synopsis: "What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is a vivid family portrait, in all its shattered reality, exploring the familial bonds between women and cycles of generational violence, colonialism, race, and silence, replete with snark, resentment, tenderness, and, of course, love."

The characters were an absolute win in this book. I love multiple-POV stories, and Jimenez captured such a unique voice and way of writing each woman's POV. I loved that Ruthy had a few POV chapters too - but the narrator tells Ruthy's chapters in second or third person POV. This narrative style brings the reader into the story, in the case of the second-person narration, and almost removes Ruthy from her own story in the case of the third person narration. Readers know it's Ruthy telling those portions of the story, but at the same time, we really don't know. I thought that choice was fascinating.

I also love the title of the story. It's not a question: What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez? It's a statement: here's what happened to Ruthy Ramirez. This story is not a mystery story. The Ruthy narrator knows all along what happened, and in a way, I think we as readers do too. This is a family story, and Ruthy remains a part of the family even if she's been missing for years. It's a simple title that I think is probably overlooked but monumental.

I'd definitely recommend this one to fans of good dialogue and characters. It's a story about family and loss, and how those things look different to each and every person.

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I throughly enjoyed this book. I hoped for a happy ending but I believe the ending that the author providing even though sad, was good and realistic.

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So much of this book focused on various events for each of the sisters and mother. Instead of a mystery or caper about tracking down a sister that had gone missing 12 years ago, we are learning about a college graduate who is struggling working retail at a Victoria Secret-like store, her older sister who works in a hospital and has an infant, and their mother. It felt like the book was more related to this than what actually happened to Ruthy and their quest to track her down after seeing her on a reality tv show. I also am not a fan of reality tv and was somewhat disgusted by the women's behavior on the show. (Are they all like this?) Overall, I enjoyed the writing style but wished for a much different story.

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I had high hopes at the beginning, but this didn't live up to those expectations set by the first few pages. While Ramirez is a wonderful writer and I appreciated the pace and style of this story, I found the ending of the plot week, was not interested in Dolores as a character, and cannot get past the absolutely bizarre and unnecessary fatphobia.

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This was a good debut novel. I really enjoyed the characters.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for this review copy

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I enjoyed reading this and the characters were extremely realistic and relatable to read about. The family dynamics felt honest and real. This was a super unique plot and writing style that I typically wouldn’t gravitate towards but I still enjoyed it, nonetheless. More so character driven than plot driven, this book focuses heavily on the way hope and grief shape our lives and ultimately leave us changed, whether for better or worse.

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In 1996, Ruthy Ramirez disappeared without a trace. The Staten Island 13-year-old had gone to school and then to track practice, but never made it home.

Nina—the youngest of the three Ramirez girls—always thought her sister Ruthy was invincible: the “Queen of the Quick Comeback, hoop earrings and Vaseline, Patron Saint of the Fist and the Late-Night Call Home from the Principal. Who in the world could touch her, my sister?”

The family searched for her and sought the help of cops. But their efforts to find Ruthy were unsuccessful, and the years stretched on. The Ramirez girls’ father, Eddie, would later die. The remaining Ramirez women — Nina, eldest sister Jessica, and their mother, Dolores — continue on, somehow. Still, the heavy question of Ruthy’s whereabouts and her wellbeing continues to hang over them. And this same question becomes too great to manage 12 years later, when Jessica sees who she thinks is Ruthy on Catfight, a vulgar reality show that pits women against one another. Like Ruthy, "Ruthy/Ruby" — as Nina calls the woman behind the screen — is Puerto Rican, has red hair, and the same brown beauty mark beneath her left eye.

Could this woman—alive, breathing and whose way of speaking is eerily familiar—be their long-missing sister?

Claire Jiménez’s powerful debut novel, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez, explores the ways in which a family’s reality can be shattered, in more ways than one. Jiménez brings a rich portrait of fierce Puerto Rican women, the bonds that tie them, and what becomes of their lives after tragedy.

There’s a bigger story about grief and how a family can be fractured, after tragedy strikes, as well as how undying love can spur a quest for answers: in this novel, the quest is a plan hatched by Jessica and Nina to drive to where the reality show is filmed, find Ruthy, and bring her home.

You can read my full review at Latinx in Publishing's blog:

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Are you interested in: a heartbreaking tale about a family who has quietly held onto questions about a missing family member?
Ready to be thrown into the desperation of everyday life of a working class New York City family?

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is definitely a novel for those who are ready to take on emotional investment in family who are regularly involved in each other's lives and are frequently reminded of the missing member who presence is sourly missed through the unanswered mystery behind her disappearance. Though the book doesn't give you a full resolution of what happened to Ruthy until its very last pages, it is clear that the story is less a page turner to find out more about where she is, and more a study of how her family has and has not been able to move on without an awareness of her story.

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What a hook this beautiful book has! Almost a decade after Ruthy Ramirez goes missing from her Puerto Rican neighborhood in Staten Island, her sisters spot her on an early 2000s late night reality show called Catfight. Well, they think it's her. She has the same beauty mark, she has the same laugh, and though she says she's from Brooklyn, all they have to go on is that this is their sister because they don't have any other answers.

Told in multiple POVs, via both sisters, their mother Delores, and Ruthy (on the day she disappears), the book is a quick, funny, and heartbreaking story of a family that tries to stick together despite all the odds being against them. I especially loved Jessica, the oldest sister. Dealing with a newborn, an un-fun job as a nurse's assistant, and the fact that she spots Ruthy first on the show, she is hard-headed but full of heart. I really enjoyed this book and I think you will too.

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