The World Without You
This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.
***National Jewish Book Awards 2012, Finalist***
JJ Greenberg Memorial Award for Fiction
From the author of the New York Times Notable Book Matrimony ["Beautiful . . . Brilliant."—Michael Cunningham], a moving, mesmerizing new novel about love, loss, and the aftermath of a family tragedy.
It’s July 4, 2005, and the Frankel family is descending upon their beloved summer home in the Berkshires. But this is no ordinary holiday. The family has gathered to memorialize Leo, the youngest of the four siblings, an intrepid journalist and adventurer who was killed on that day in 2004, while on assignment in Iraq.
The parents, Marilyn and David, are adrift in grief. Their forty-year marriage is falling apart. Clarissa, the eldest sibling and a former cello prodigy, has settled into an ambivalent domesticity and is struggling at age thirty-nine to become pregnant. Lily, a fiery-tempered lawyer and the family contrarian, is angry at everyone. And Noelle, whose teenage years were shadowed by promiscuity and school expulsions, has moved to Jerusalem and become a born-again Orthodox Jew. The last person to see Leo alive, Noelle has flown back for the memorial with her husband and four children, but she feels entirely out of place. And Thisbe —Leo’s widow and mother of their three-year-old son—has come from California bearing her own secret.
Set against the backdrop of Independence Day and the Iraq War, The World Without You is a novel about sibling rivalries and marital feuds, about volatile women and silent men, and, ultimately, about the true meaning of family.
From the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
The World Without You
An interesting book full of drama and conflict.
Imagine spending a long weekend with a bunch of people you don't really care for. You have now experienced this book.
In retrospect, I should never have purchased it. I'm not a family person - family reunions are not for me. And this family, specifically, is so unlikeable. If not for Gretchen, who is the most authentic, I cared not for any of them. Even the son being mourned? Not such an amazing person.
I know, I know - if I liked it so little, why read to the end? I kept wanting something to happen - some reward for time invested.
It did not. Aargh!
Poignant. Heartbreaking. Touching. There are a lot of words I could use to describe this book, but the one that seems the most applicable is familiar. This is not because I can identify or even begin to imagine what the family has been through, but because the characters were all so very approachable. Rarely does a book draw the reader into the folds of its story so seamlessly as this one does.
The World Without You is about a family that is falling apart after the death of their son, brother and husband, Leo. Captured and killed while working as a journalist in Iraq, Leo’s funeral was overridden by the press one year earlier and the family has chosen to memorialize him in a small ceremony in his favorite Berkshires town in Massachusetts. Told through alternating perspectives, The World Without You holds nothing back in its portrayal of a family that is slowly disintegrating.
Everyone in this book is important and intriguing in their own way, but here is a snapshot of the most interesting:
- Noelle - Sister of Leo and mother of four boys. Noelle fled her promiscuous past, became a born-again Orthodox Jew and lives in Jerusalem. She shakes things up by bringing her own kosher food and dishes.
- Thisbe – Leo’s young widow and mother of their three year old, Calder. She’s in the precarious position of being young and wanting to move forward and respecting her past and Leo’s legacy.
- Marilyn – Leo’s mother who is determined to make the weekend a success and for whom everyone else is trying to please.
- Clarissa – Leo’s sister who is struggling with getting pregnant.
The author, Joshua Henkin, does a wonderful job of navigating the waters of real family battles while respecting the perspectives of each. There were no favorites, nor were there any overly dramatic moments to sully the underlying tone of authenticity.What I love about this book is that it is relatable. Anyone who has argued with siblings or felt chastised by in-laws will be able to identify with this book, whether or not they have lost a close family member. It oozes sincerity without the cheesiness that often accompanies that emotion, and it has moved into one of my favorite books of the year.