A review by wordssearched
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter


This book is made up not so much of intersecting stories as intersecting novels, every single one about the chasm between what life is and what it could have been or still could be. Each character (even the one we know well) seems, when we meet them, like a thousand pages waiting to be read: the would-be actress, the young Italian dreamer, the cynical Hollywood gofer, the OTHER cynical Hollywood gofer, the novel writer ready to fail before he's begun, the movie writer ready to fail before he's begun, THE Richard Burton, and the one who stepped out of a Nick Hornby novel and is the reason they are all here. They come together in a series of small, tantalizing, at times incongruent vignettes that circle around each other for long enough that by the end, what we want to know is not what happens, exactly, but that everything is going to be OK. At least that's how reading this book felt for me. I was surprised at my own tears as a reached the end, and surprised that after decades past, the twists and turns and the missing pieces, the little life that is left can still be enough.