BY RUBY NAMDAR
REVIEW BY: MARCIA R. RUDIN
Our ancient sages placed great emphasis on knowing “from where you came” (Pirkei Avot 3:1). Andrew P. Cohen, the protagonist of The Ruined House (Harper Perennial, 2018), does not know this. He has cut himself off or, more accurately, has never even considered his connection to Jewish history and tradition.
The word “house” in the title of this fascinating novel by Iranian-born Ruby Namdar may refer variously to Bet Israel, the House of Israel (the Jewish people); to the magnificent Second Temple in Jerusalem; and also to Andrew’s moral and emotional life – the “house” of his soul. It may even refer to the messy, overly decorated house in the suburbs that Cohen occupies with his family, in contrast to his sparse modern apartment in Manhattan, where he lives by and for himself.
Namdar tells the story of what happened to what were once perfect houses.
At the beginning of the novel, Andrew has it all. A prominent professor of comparative culture at New York University, he is about to receive a coveted promotion. Loved by his students, he contributes brilliant articles to the best literary publications. He is handsome and in great physical shape for a man in his 50s, and an inheritance allows him to travel widely.