What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

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Pub Date 07 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 29 Feb 2024

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A deeply powerful, raw debut novel that's "equal measures hilarious and haunting" (Crystal Hana Kim), of a Puerto Rican family in Staten Island who discovers their long‑missing sister is potentially alive and cast on a reality TV show, and they set out to bring her home.

The Ramirez women of Staten Island orbit around absence. When thirteen‑year‑old middle child Ruthy disappeared after track practice without a trace, it left the family scarred and scrambling. One night, twelve years later, oldest sister Jessica spots a woman on her TV screen in Catfight, a raunchy reality show. She rushes to tell her younger sister, Nina: This woman's hair is dyed red, and she calls herself Ruby, but the beauty mark under her left eye is instantly recognizable. Could it be Ruthy, after all this time?

The years since Ruthy's disappearance haven't been easy on the Ramirez family. It’s 2008, and their mother, Dolores, still struggles with the loss, Jessica juggles a newborn baby with her hospital job, and Nina, after four successful years at college, has returned home to medical school rejections and is forced to work in the mall folding tiny bedazzled thongs at the lingerie store.

After seeing maybe‑Ruthy on their screen, Jessica and Nina hatch a plan to drive to where the show is filmed in search of their long‑lost sister. When Dolores catches wind of their scheme, she insists on joining, along with her pot-stirring holy roller best friend, Irene. What follows is a family road trip and reckoning that will force the Ramirez women to finally face the past and look toward a future—with or without Ruthy in it.

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.

A deeply powerful, raw debut novel that's "equal measures hilarious and haunting" (Crystal Hana Kim), of a Puerto Rican family in Staten Island who discovers their long‑missing sister is potentially...

Advance Praise

"Claire Jiménez's What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is at once hilarious and heartbreaking. An original novel about mothers, daughters, and sisters, about a family broken by a profound loss. Jiménez is both storyteller and cultural critic, giving us an unflinching rejection of respectability politics, characters who love and fight, who are flawed and vulnerable and real. This book will stay with me a long time.”

—JAQUIRA DÍAZ, author of Ordinary Girls


"I loved this book. Equal measures hilarious and haunting, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is about a family who must keep living in the face of sudden loss. The humor makes the pages glide, but there’s true heartache at the center of this story, and I held my breath as I reached the end—full of such hope and fear for these women. Claire Jiménez is a stand out talent."

—CRYSTAL HANA KIM, National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 honoree of If You Leave Me


"The universe of Claire Jiménez’s brilliant debut novel, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez, sparkles with several generations of Puerto Rican women navigating issues of race, colonialism, gender and faith in a world cut through displacement and the quotidian challenges of day-to-day living. These memorably imagined women are imbued with a rich sense of cultural complexity, and Jiménez manages to capture a world-view rich with faith and magic, lending her work a deeply human force that is most compelling. Jiménez’s comic sense and timing are achieved with incredible skill and sensitivity."

—KWAME DAWES, author of UnHistory with John Kinsella


“Often funny, subversive, and an urgent exploration of family, grief, and womanhood, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez reinforces Claire Jiménez as a writer for our times. With a meticulous eye that captures the occluded truths of the Ramirez women, Jiménez has written a beautiful triumph.”

—XAVER NAVARRO AQUINO, author of Velorio


"Claire Jiménez's What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is at once hilarious and heartbreaking. An original novel about mothers, daughters, and sisters, about a family broken by a profound loss. Jiménez is...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9781538725962
PRICE $28.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 315 members

Featured Reviews

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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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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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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I read this book in one sitting! I could NOT put it down! WOW! What an incredible journey this book takes you on. Grief, laughter, anger, and forgiveness. I highly recommend this book.

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A story of family secrets, young girls of color struggles through friendship challenges, hope, and loss. One finds this novel a mix of ups and downs and possibly one own family in one or more characters. Will Ruthy be found? That was the foundational hope, but instead other important things within this culturally proud family.

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4.5 stars rounded up.

If you love books about family dynamics (and not just the pretty parts) then this is a story for you!

I like that the story was told from different points of view: Ruthy, who went missing when she was thirteen, her sisters, Jess and Nina, and their mother, Dolores.

It gives you extra insight into everyone's individual perspective and makes the telling of their family story more powerful.

While I wouldn't say it's an uplifting book, neither would I declare it to be too depressing.

I was invested in Ruthy's family's search for her and enjoyed the dialogue between them as they dealt with love, generational trauma, struggles with religion, and childhood challenges.

Thank you to #Netgalley for this ARC of #WhatHappenedToRuthyRamirez

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I recently came across this title but I'm so glad I did because it was everything I needed at the time that I read it. I enjoyed this one and I'm so glad that I got the chance to read it! It was a deep read about family and different struggles. I think most people will enjoy it as well once they dig into this read. I enjoyed the characters and enjoyed the writing by this author. I'm excited to see what the author comes out with next as I'll definitely be reading it! Thank you to the publisher for my early copy of this book!

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A mystery but ultimately the story of a family trying to fill in the gap left by a missing child and sister - this book was humorous and also moving, and the ending was heartbreaking.

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I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This book had me very emotional as a person who grew up in New York. This book follows the family of Ruthy Ramirez. Ruthy disappears after track practice at the age of thirteen. As years pass her disappearance has decimated her family. Her father has died, her mom has health issues, while her sisters struggle to make it; one being a new mother with a job and the other a college graduate but regulated to working retail at a mall.

This book touches on several issues: child sexual abuse, gender discrimination in the workforce, death, and grief. While those subject seem heavy there is also hilarity throughout the book from Jessica, Nina, and Delores. Their interactions keep you engaged in the book and it will have you laughing. While the title will have you thinking the story is about Ruthy it is actually about dealing with grief, working through the grief and family bonding. The ending broke my heart but I pretty much expected what happened.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

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What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is a question that runs throughout the book but is actually a statement not just about one girl but about a pressing social issue - the fate of missing Brown and Black girls. Claire Jimenez's debut novel about a girl who goes missing at thirteen years old and the family who years later spot her on a late night reality tv show is a powerful ode to the young girls and their families who live out of sight of their white counterparts.
I find it interesting to see the word hilarious being used in the descriptions of this book. For me, there were moments that could make me smile and laugh but it felt like they came from a place of sadness due to the gravity of the situation the characters were in. I found it hard to read this book from any other place and yet I remained just as hopeful as Ruthy's sisters did as they fought to get their sister back. This is a book that will take readers on a rollercoaster of emotions, one that I believe different readers will have different emotions over and yet every reader will come away from with the same necessary emotions over the treatment of missing Brown and Black girls in America.
This book is sure to be talked about throughout 2023 and beyond.

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What a powerful debut! I was all-in on the Ramirez family and its rotating quad of perspectives from the get-go; Claire Jimenez did a precise, poignant job crafting entirely different voices, circumstances, and stakes for all four women's separate points of view. (And whew, that ending!)

In terms of this book's genre and tone, I'd categorize What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez as leaning towards literary fiction with a mystery in it rather than anything thriller-related. It's certainly more of a character-driven novel than a plot-driven one, which I personally loved. On that note, I think this is a great book for those who are looking to go a little more literary with their reading but don't want to commit to something that's a billion pages long.

I also saw some reviews saying there was too much cursing in this. To be honest, I basically didn't notice the cursing at all; I'm not sure what that says about me (or the amount of time I've spent living in New York City), but personally, I thought that aspect was totally fine.

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This is the story of a Puerto Rican family living in Staten Island, whose lives have been affected by their sister Ruthy's disappearance. This book is a general fiction read with a mystery embedded within it. If you think you are reading a solid mystery you are not. This is more about how all the characters developed throughout, and after, Ruthy goes missing. Yes, they are still trying to figure out what happened , but that is not the heart of the story. The Ramirez girls are the heart.

I absolutely loved the messiness of the Ramirez sisters as they navigated what it is like to be female, both in middle school and now as young women. And especially looking at how they develop in relation to other females, even though men have clearly impacted who they are, that's not really the story here. The book is told from alternating perspectives between the sisters and the mother. And similar to the girl's experiences in school it is interesting to read the mothers perspective, especially as she navigates her experience with the church and God.

This book brought me heartache and tears, as well as laughter at some of the ridiculousness, but I think it's a very important read with a lot of great discussion points. I hope readers aren't put off by the profanity throughout because I think this book has so much to say. It reminds me of similar complaints about The Hate U Give. I think it's a worthwhile question, are we judging the language or the actual characters and community.? I believe judgement was a theme throughout this book and that alone makes for a great discussion.

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How can I sob at the end of book that cracked me up so much? Thank you to the publishers at Grand Central Publishers for an eARC ahead of the novel’s release in exchange for an honest review!

What Happened to Ruth’s Ramirez is a book that takes head-on the messiness of family, being in-between cultures, and the wide scope of generational trauma. It’s also a book that features a Puerto Rican auntie cutting the line at a club with her bestie from church; a No Sabo kid trying to mime to communicate with a customer despite having told her boss that she spoke Spanish; and even more hilarious scenarios courtesy of the women of the Ramirez household.

The book’s humor offers a humanizing touch to the awful things and circumstances that these characters face, and more importantly gives the narrative around missing girls back to both the girl herself and the women who are still looking for her.

Ruthy is more than a just another missing brown girl, but the book’s point is that all of these missing black and brown girls are so much more than a picture under a “Lost Child” poster.

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What Happened To Ruthy Ramirez is a powerful debut about love, grief, and hope. This story is told from the alternating POV of the 4 women in the Ramirez family-Nina, Dolores, Jessica and Ruthy after Ruthy disappears at 13 years old. This book focuses on how Ruthy’s disappearance affects each member of the family and the family dynamics.

This book felt so real and I liked that each character has a very distinct voice in each of their chapters. I enjoyed that the Puerto Rican culture also played a huge role in this book. I didn’t connect with all the characters but it was easy to have empathy for them and care about them. I did really enjoy Dolores’s character and especially enjoyed chapters from her POV. Overall it was a fast absorbing read that made me laugh out loud as well as feel deep sorrow.

This was really impressive for a debut and I am excited to read her next one.

Thank you Netgalley for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review

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This is a great addition to the canon of "dead girl" novels. Ruthy has been missing for years, and one day her sisters see her lookalike on tv and wonder if it could be her. The ensuing days of planning and watching and going to find her highlight the complexities of her family left behind, and how her disappearance has affected them.

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