San Francisco, circa 1900s, is the backdrop to Karen Barnetts’ latest novel, Out of the Ruins. The post-gold rush city is full of excitement, but Abby Fischer would rather be home in her fruit orchard.
Unfortunately, her family moved to the City by the Bay in order to stay close to her sister, Cecelia, as she undergoes a new experimental treatment for leukemia.
Handsome young doctor, Robert King, who is overseeing the treatment, has eyes for Abby, but when Cecilia dies, their romance is in danger of ending. And to make matters worse, Abby turns her back on God for not saving her sister.
I remained hopeful that the novel’s venue would make for a rich and intriguing read. I found myself disappointed that San Francisco remained a simple high school play backdrop against a stilted, predictable love story.
There were a few paragraphs that addressed the problem of Chinese girls sold into slavery, but they were quickly glossed over, used merely to highlight the heroic doctor and the damsel in danger.
Even the famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906 did little to shake up the plot. With destruction and flames all around, the reader spends the last quarter of the book observing Abby and Robert, separated by the disaster, wandering around looking for each other.
Of course, by this time, after rubbing spiritual shoulders with a ramrod straight Scottish missionary and her group of Chinese girls, Abby has made amends with the Almighty. A simple wrap up to the theological quandary, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”.
Those who love romance novels with happy endings will enjoy Out of the Ruins– it’s a romance, plain and simple, and Barnett does that genre well. It’s an uncomplicated story which would be a great read for a week at the beach. No surprises, no deep thinking, just a love story with a catastrophe thrown in.