Ruby Falls: A Novel
by Deborah Royce Goodrich

Published: 2022-04-12T00:0
Paperback : 320 pages
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Named one of the most riveting books of Spring 2021 by Veranda Magazine!

Named one of 30 books to read in May 2021 by Zibby Owens for Good Morning America!

Named one of the best books for Mother's Day by Zibby Owens for The Washington Post!

Like the chilling psychological ...
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Named one of the most riveting books of Spring 2021 by Veranda Magazine!

Named one of 30 books to read in May 2021 by Zibby Owens for Good Morning America!

Named one of the best books for Mother's Day by Zibby Owens for The Washington Post!

Like the chilling psychological thriller The Silent Patient, Deborah Goodrich Royce’s Ruby Falls is a nail-biting tale of a fragile young actress, the new husband she barely knows, and her growing suspicion that the secrets he harbors may eclipse her own.

On a brilliantly sunny July day, six-year-old Ruby is abandoned by her father in the suffocating dark of a Tennessee cave. Twenty years later, transformed into soap opera star Eleanor Russell, she is fired under dubious circumstances. Fleeing to Europe, she marries a glamorous stranger named Orlando Montague and keeps her past closely hidden.

Together, Eleanor and Orlando start afresh in LA. Setting up house in a storybook cottage in the Hollywood Hills, Eleanor is cast in a dream role—the lead in a remake of Rebecca. As she immerses herself in that eerie gothic tale, Orlando’s personality changes, ghosts of her past re-emerge, and Eleanor fears she is not the only person in her marriage with a secret.

In this thrilling and twisty homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the story ricochets through the streets of Los Angeles, a dangerous marriage to an exotic stranger, and the mind of a young woman whose past may not release her.

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1968. Lookout Mountain

I was standing with my father in the pitch-black dark—the blackest dark I’d ever seen in the few short years of my young life—and the blackest dark that I’ve seen since, which is a considerably longer span. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. When her father vanishes from the bowels of Ruby Falls cave, six-year-old Ruby experiences a trauma that leaves lasting scars. The reason for his disappearance—kidnapping? drowning? abandonment?—remains the core unanswered question of her life. What could have been done to help the child come to terms with this incident? Do you believe that psychotherapy, meditation, journaling—any kind of mindful practice—can help to lessen the impact of profound emotional injury? Is there a window of opportunity for such healing?

2. Eleanor flees to Europe after a breakdown at work that was severe enough to hint at criminal charges. It is not until much later in the novel that the reader learns that it was a letter containing shocking revelations that set her off. Do you think Eleanor might have maintained her equilibrium had she not received Dottie’s letter? Had Eleanor’s recovery been more complete in childhood, might she have been less vulnerable to this later trigger?

3. Eleanor decides not to tell Orlando about the cataclysmic event of her childhood. The reader increasingly learns of deeper levels of Eleanor’s deceptions, most notably the lies she tells herself. A lie can lead to another lie, until it is hard to distinguish truth from fiction, making it almost impossible to extricate from the lies in an undamaged way. Is there a point in Eleanor’s life where you feel that she (or those around her) could have applied the brakes to her runaway emotional train?

4. One of the most important elements of Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca, on which Ruby Falls is loosely based, is its sense of place. The first line in Rebecca, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” establishes a location that is dreamlike and, perhaps, ominous. Hollywood is a familiar setting to any of us who have watched movies since their inception. We recognize the twisty streets of the Hollywood Hills and their signature lampposts, the gates of the Paramount Pictures lot, the Hollywood sign. Did you find that the Hollywood setting of Ruby Falls added to the ethereal and unsettling mood of the novel in the way that Manderley and the coast of Cornwall does in Rebecca?]

5. Every chapter of Ruby Falls is titled. Many of these titles (Vertigo, Gaslight, The Postman Always Rings Twice) are names of films, from Gothic to film noir to Hitchcock. Some are titles of books (The Woman in White, The Day of the Locust, The Shadow of the Wind) representing genres from Gothic to thriller. Some are quotations (Flores para los Muertos, Dona Nobis Pacem) that come from a variety of sources. Did you enjoy this literary puzzle that gave the reader hints about the content of corresponding chapters and the secrets held within the novel?

6. Eleanor “curates” her life, as though she is writing a book or directing a film. The English chintz curtains she hangs, the Italian wine she serves, the Spode china she uses, her mother’s clothing that she wears—all of these are conscious choices that help Eleanor create the world she wishes to inhabit. We all do this to a greater or lesser degree. How much of it is healthy, and when does it become a pathology?

7. Eleanor forms an unlikely bond with Dottie, her much older neighbor. This relationship—both in its real form, when we believe it is actually happening, and in its imaginary form, once we learn that Ellie has conjured up a friendship with a dead woman—represents Eleanor’s need for a guiding figure. Since Ellie has a good relationship with her mother, why do you think her mother does not fulfill this need on Ellie’s behalf? Is Ellie’s need so great that a mere mortal cannot fill it?

8. The significance of tiny pieces of paper looms large in Ruby Falls. Eleanor remembers a dinner in New York where Lisette advised her to place a scrap of paper in her doorjamb so that if it fell out, she’d know that someone had broken into her house. Sonny, Eleanor’s father, gave little Ruby an important message on a piece of paper in the cave before he disappeared, one that she has hidden in a secret drawer in the secretary ever since. Do you think that the first paper, the one given by her father, led her to make up—or overestimate—the meaning of the second? What does this say about Ruby’s need to read signs in objects and occurrences?

9. Ruby Falls, like many Gothic novels, hints at the supernatural, especially in the character of Dottie Robinson. Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre are two examples of Gothic novels where the reader is led to an otherworldly interpretation of mysterious happenings, only to have more concrete explanations given later on. Did you enjoy this playful use of genre conventions?

10. Because it is vital for Eleanor’s sense of self to find an important reason for her father to have left her, she grows up to be something of a conspiracy theorist. In her search for the meaning of her father’s desertion, she explores everything from the FBI to the CIA to the KGB to an organized crime syndicate called the Dixie Mafia. Because the story unfolds between the 1960s and the 1980s, Ellie’s ability to research these threads is limited to what she finds in libraries. How would the book be different if it played out today, in our era of widespread access to the internet and whatever conspiracy theories are available for perusal there? Do you think most conspiracy theories stem from a similar need to find deeper significance and meaning in what often feels like a random universe? Do we look to ascribe a cause to tragic events (an assassination, a plane crash) so that we can convince ourselves that we can keep such things from happening to us?

11. Eleanor’s final night on Primrose Avenue is one of increasing chaos and decreasing coherence. Suddenly, it is revealed that nothing is what it seemed. Eleanor has told herself—and the reader—a fabricated tale worthy of a Victorian Gothic novel. Though you may not have seen it coming, were you able to go back after this revelation and follow the breadcrumb trail to add up the clues you may have missed—clues such as the opening quotations from Edgar Allen Poe and Edmund Burke, the fact that the people surrounding Eleanor never actually meet one another, the fact that Eleanor never does spend the night at Dottie’s, or the fact that the exotic emporium on Hollywood Boulevard is, in reality, a stationery store where Eleanor orders her “Mrs. Montague” writing paper?

12. The book ends with Eleanor/Ruby walking away from her cottage on Primrose Avenue, into the orb of the rising sun, and getting hit by a car. As the accident unfolds, Ruby looks up to see her father standing before her. She takes his hand—the hand she lost hold of so many years before—and feels a sense of well-being. Did you see any other way out for Eleanor? Do you think she may finally have found peace? Can death be a happy ending? Or is the author playing with perception one last time, and did Eleanor really die?

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