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I just finished the novel “Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walters. It was a moving story, or collection of stories, that all come to a climax in the end. The stories explore horizons between the present, past and future, between longing and regret, between what we want and what we get. The writing is powerful, evoking nostalgia, while not getting campy. It pulls back curtains on the end of the stories and what you find is that the story doesn’t end, it continues. I am reminded of the line in Dead Poet’s Society where Mr. Keating challenges his students with the line “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.”

The story “Beautiful Ruins”, bounces seamlessly between past and present, a device that allows Walter to demonstrate the concept that the end of the story isn’t the end of the story. He shows how things of beauty turn into ruins and out of ruins may rise more substantial beauty, if we are willing to be humbled by it. One of the characters is a Hollywood producer who fights the movement of time and with all of his attempts to appear youthful, he looks like a freak.

I was moved by the book, and I suspect that the story was more powerful having many years of my life in my past. Walter was very observant.

In a strategy at the end of the book, he completes many of the stories he has been telling throughout the book,and illustrates in a visceral way how disappointing endings can be, mainly because of their eventual slide into obscurity. Like the ruins of great empires and wars, what was most notable turns to stone. The author helps me understand that what matters is now, that the present is where we live and love, succeed and fail, grow and stagnate. There is no time like the present.


The back of the car is barren where boxes and bags crowded for space. Packed in a bedroom it is unpacked in dorm room. Sandwiches shared on the campus lawn, last minute necessities purchased, and the Blessing shared with an auditorium buzzing with the conflict of youthful eagerness and parental restraint. Tears spill with last hugs. We say goodbye.

How do we send off someone who has been so much a part of our lives? How do we let go of someone who has defined us?

Our daughter is electric with excitement, nerves twitching, knowing she must be patient for the new world to arrive. With one last hug we commit her to the care of the school, and walk away, for that is what comes next for us.

Today we all start a new chapter in our lives. Our eager daughter rushes headlong into the challenges of living more on her own. We return to the life we live in. And we embrace the empty place in our daily lives that she filled. We knew this day was coming. We have been planning for it.

Today, we return to being a couple, finding joy in our journey together that is both familiar and novel. While our daughter’s presence will be missed, I look forward to getting to know my best friend even better. It is back to the two of us, ending up where we started. A place where love was conceived and nourished. We now stand together, hand in hand and watch with wonder as it blossoms.