What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

Grand Central. Mar. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781538725962. $28. F
DEBUT The Ramirez family schemes to bring back a lost family member in this heartbreaking yet hilarious debut novel by Jiménez (author of the award-winning story collection Staten Island Stories). In 1996, 13-year-old Ruthy Ramirez did not return to her Staten Island home after track practice. Twelve years later, older sister Jessica comes across Catfight, a reality TV show in which one of the participants has an uncanny resemblance to Ruthy. Skeptical at first, younger sister Nia eventually agrees to travel with Jessica to the show’s location. Their mother and her best friend Irene go with them. Each of the Ramirez women, including Ruthy in 1996, narrates a chapter. A strong thread in this book is women’s lack of bodily autonomy. Several of the Ramirez women encounter relatives, family friends, and strangers who believe they can do whatever they want to their bodies, including physically and sexually assaulting them. Tales of assimilation, underemployment, and dreams deferred intersect with this Puerto Rican family’s palpable needs and hopes.
VERDICT For every moment of sorrow, there are wildly comical conversations and situations between the Ramirez family, Irene, and supporting characters. Readers will likely root for the family and for Jiménez, an author to watch.
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