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Radiant Shadows

The Ruining

The Ruining - Anna Collomore For the first half of The Ruining, I was sure I had at least a 4-star review – possibly a 5-star review! – on my hands. Tension, suspense, fear, doubt, secrets – everything one hopes for from a great psychological thriller was present. But as I headed into the end of the second half, the plot escalated much too quickly for my liking, and I found myself being pulled out of the creepy atmosphere as I found more and more things to question.The Ruining’s buildup to Annie’s mental breakdown started off fantastically. With secrets about her past still haunting her dreams, Annie moves from Detroit to San Francisco in order to be a nanny for a young, wealthy couple – Libby and Walker Cohen. Shortly after arriving, certain twitches in Libby’s mannerisms had Annie slightly on edge, worried that she was constantly disappointing Libby. But with each odd behaviour displayed by Libby, she had a warm smile and some reassuring words to convince Annie that she was merely imagining things. For the longest time though, I was convinced that Libby was hiding a darker, more sinister side of herself and that Annie was right to trust her instincts that were trying to warn her about Libby’s odd behaviour. It seemed like Annie was completely unable to function without doing something that angered Libby, and Libby’s anger always seemed largely out of proportion with Annie’s minor indiscretions.But as time went on, and Annie’s thoughts toward Libby became slightly strange and obsessive, I couldn’t help but begin to question all of Annie’s experiences; maybe she over-exaggerated how angry Libby was, or maybe she mistook Libby’s concerned facial expression for one of annoyance. Annie coveted everything about Libby’s life, and at times, she was downright stalkerish about it.I crept closer to her bed until I was standing right above her sleeping form. I could see everything: the curve of her lashes, the rise and fall of her chest. The curly quality of her hair, let loose from its normal bun and falling into unkempt waves around her shoulders. I felt a kind of reverence overcome me as I did it. I imagined myself there, in her bed – not with her, not like that – but me there instead of her. For a second I saw my own sleeping form in that bed. I saw myself as Libby. With her life. Her husband. Her children.I stared at Libby. I wasn’t sure what compelled me to do it. But I stared at her in the darkness for a very long time before I went back to my bed.With her thoughts about Libby’s perfect life, Libby’s perfect looks, and Libby’s perfect husband at the forefront of most of her thoughts, I had no idea what to think! Who was I supposed to believe? Annie who had begun to hear Libby refer to her as “Nanny” or Libby, who swore that “Nanny” and “Annie” were so close in sound that Annie must have heard her wrong? Annie who had no memory of raiding the kitchen in the middle of the night and is blaming Libby for the big mess, or Libby who never eats anything and is blaming Annie? Annie who accuses Libby of torturing her with the yellow wallpaper, or Libby who argues that Annie is reading in to things too much? Deliciously, my confusion wasn’t alleviated as The Ruining progressed and Annie fell deeper into mental instability (or Libby became more ruthless in her attempts to drive Annie insane).It was like there were two Nannies. Nanny and Annie? Or Nanny and Nanny? I’d started calling myself Nanny, I realized. How wonderful. Libby would be thrilled that I’d come around. There was no Annie, not really. She’d disappeared the day she agreed to be Nanny. Now Nanny was all she was. All I was. Now I was the Nanny who thought things and the Nanny who said things out loud. The Nanny who did things and the Nanny who forgot all about it the next day. The Nanny Libby loved and the one she loathed and locked up like a pet that had misbehaved.Scenes like this truly freaked me out – especially when coupled with young Zoe’s creepy humming of a classic nursery rhyme. I could see the scene unfold in my head and it had me ready to topple over the edge with Annie!Considering how well Collomore had built up Annie’s mental instability, I was really looking forward to an exciting and explosive ending! Unfortunately, The Ruining’s amazing buildup is completely thrown away by how quickly Annie was able to cross over from mental stability into mental instability. It seemed like we had reached the breaking point, where Annie needed to admit to herself that either a) Libby was playing one sick mind game with her, or b) she actually was having some kind of psychotic episode. But instead of getting to see Annie reaching the breaking point, Libby tells her she has become a danger to herself and to the children and locks her in her bedroom for a couple days. Annie accepts that Libby is right and is then shipped off to a mental institution. The last few chapters of The Ruining fly by in a cloud of drugs, confusion over how quickly Annie has adapted to the daily routine of hospital life, and concern that she believes Libby is doing what’s best for her.But the worst part is how neatly everything is tied up, behind the scenes. While at the hospital, Owen visits Annie and promises to dig up information on the Cohens, and to get her out of the hospital. He returns some time later, with the explosive truth about Libby and Walker (which wasn’t so explosive, considering Walker had laid out half of it for Annie in an attempt to “clear his guilty conscience”), the truth is brought to light and Annie and Owen walk off into the sunset together, ready to live their happily ever after. We don’t get to see Owen digging up this information, we don’t get to see Libby’s reaction to his uncovering of the truth, and we don’t get to see Annie breathe a sigh of relief that her nightmare is over. Everything is handled “off-camera” as they say, and I was disappointed by how lacklustre it all felt.For all of The Ruining’s great buildup, to say I was disappointed by the ending was an understatement. I will say that the somewhat open-ended ending, with Annie’s exhaustion and Owen’s slightly controlling behaviour hinting that her fight with mental illness (and possible psychopaths) might be just beginning, was kind of interesting. I could also just be reading in to things too much.