Sweet Ruin

A Novel

Sweet Ruin

Elayna Leopold, 35, works from home in New Jersey so that she can raise her young daughter, Hazel, while her husband puts in long hours as a lawyer in New York. Elayna is typical of women who spend their twenties chasing dreams in the city only to spend their thirties chasing children in the suburbs. Yet no one knows better than she that life can change instantly. Two years ago her infant son died, sending her into a depression from which she's just emerging. Now, suddenly -- thrillingly -- Elayna finds herself craving life's passions again. When she meets Kevin, a young artist and neighbor, she discovers a version of herself she thought was gone forever. As she uncovers yearnings that could destroy everything she cherishes, a threat to Hazel emerges from an unlikely source, making Elayna's choices and decisions that much more critical.

Riveting, tender, and utterly real, Sweet Ruin is a gripping story about one woman's search for passion amid the challenges of ordinary life and a triumph of contemporary fiction from a writer known for her candor and wisdom.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743277358 | 
  • June 2007
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
Sweet Ruin
by Cathi Hanauer

Elayna Leopold Slade seems to have the perfect life -- a comfortable home in the suburbs, a successful and loving husband, Paul, and a beautiful seven-year old daughter, Hazel. But Elayna's life is not at all as simple and happy as it appears. Two years ago, Elayna gave birth to a darling boy, Oliver, who died due to heart trouble within days of his birth, plunging Elayna into a deep depression that is just beginning to lift. As Elayna heals from her crippling sadness, she relishes her return to the full life that she had neglected since Oliver's death.
Elayna's mood -- sexual and otherwise -- is further buoyed when she meets an attractive, artsy twenty-something neighbor, Kevin. As her flirtation with Kevin edges towards more, Elayna turns to her best friend Celeste for support and advice. Meanwhile, Elayna works to rebuild her relationship with her father, Devon, a New York City fashion photographer who left her mother when she was young. Devon's desire to establish a close bond with Hazel leads Elayna to allow him into Hazel's life, a decision that may ultimately put Hazel in danger. Will Elayna's emergence out of her depression threaten the stability of both her marriage and her morality?

Questions and Topics for Discussion
  1. Sweet Ruin is written in the first person, with Elayna as the narrator. Ho
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About the Author

Cathi Hanauer
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Cathi Hanauer

Cathi Hanauer is the author of the novels My Sister’s Bones and Sweet Ruin and the editor of the New York Times bestselling essay anthology The Bitch in the House. Her articles, essays, and/or criticism have appeared in The New York Times, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self, Parenting, Whole Living, and other magazines. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts. Visit her online at CathiHanauer.com.