Ruth Zardo

Ruth Zardo is a poet from Three Pines, a village in Quebec Province, Canada, the fictional creation of Louise Penny, who writes a mystery series set in Three Pines.  In the second of the series, A Fatal Grace, Ruth has just published a book of poetry called, I’m FINE, and some village members go to a book signing at Ogilvy’s department store in Montreal.

Ruth is a true curmudgeon.  She is seventy something, she drinks, often from someone else’s glass, and she swears like a trucker.   She signs the book of a villager with the inscription:  You Stink.   Ruth is also a natural leader:  she is chief of Three Pines’ volunteer fire department, skills which become needed later in the book.

The villagers give as good as they get from Ruth.  It is Christmas time and the gay man who owns the village bistro, whom Ruth calls “fag,” says Ruth will portray Father Christmas because she does not have to grow a special beard.  Ruth writes bristly poems that well from some vast source of pain.  Here is an example:

‘Forget what?

Your sadness, your shadow,

whatever it was that was done to you

the day of the lawn party

when you came inside flushed with the sun,

your mouth sulky with sugar,

in your new dress with the ribbon

and the ice-cream smear,

and said to yourself in the bathroom,

I am not the favorite child.’

Much later in the book, the wife of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache from the Surete headquarters in Montreal, says that the letters FINE in the title of the book of poetry must be an acronym for something.  Sure enough, when Gamache asks, Ruth says, “…FINE stands for Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Egotistical.  I’m FINE.”

Another character, Clara, reads poetry in the bathtub, humming and moaning.  Her husband is jealous:  “He wanted all her moans.  But she moaned for Hecht and Atwood and Angelou and even Yeats.  She groaned and hummed with pleasure over Auden and Plessner.  But she reserved her greatest pleasure for Ruth Zardo.”

You were a moth

brushing against my cheek

in the dark.

I killed you

not knowing

you were only a moth,

with no sting.’

The series is a delight, full of village characters, some of whom have deadly secrets; breakfast at the bistro with fresh croissants and homemade jam; a smart, sensitive detective who sometimes quotes Shakespeare, loves his
wife and has conflicts with his boss; and lots and lots of snow.

Ruth Zardo is the vinegar in an otherwise sweet setting.  A keen observer who listens only to her own counsel, she’s a poet worth getting to know.



  1. Dawn said

    Wonderful wonderful books!

  2. Love this series of books!!!

  3. […] Fine. By which I mean, fucked up, insecure, neurotic and egotistical, as Louise Penny’s Ruth Zardo would put it. I had a week. Better now. Have you […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: