Wednesday, July 18, 2012

book review: The World Without You by Joshua Henkin

The basics: The World Without You is the story of the Frankel family gathering over July 4, 2005 at their summer home in Lenox, Massachusetts, one year after the death of Leo, the youngest of four children, in Iraq.

My thoughts: I've been meaning to read Matrimony, Joshua Henkin's previous novel for years, but when I heard about this new novel, I decided to start with it. I'm so glad I did. I read The World Without You mostly in public places, which isn't particularly unusual for me. What is worth mentioning, however, is that nearly every chapter of this novel brought tears to my eyes. Some chapters left me sobbing, which is something I generally try to avoid in public places, but this novel was too good to put down in airports, on airplanes and on the bus.

Despite taking place over a few days, Henkin masterfully constructs these characters fully. I never got confused as to which person, and they seemed like real people, was which. Part of the fun for me was the setting in the Berkshires, near where my husband grew up and I, too, love to spend summers. Essentially, this novel is all about character and writing:
"In her twenties, she used to buy condoms with a casualness that bordered on disdain, but this feels different to her. There’s something more private about pregnancy than about sex, and although she understands the two are connected, it’s the trying to conceive that feels personal to her."
As I looked back on the numerous passages I marked, I was still surprised to see that all of them were character-based statements. Henkin is a beautiful writer, and despite the tragic death at the novel's center, the emotions I felt as I read never felt forced or stemmed from manipulation. Instead, they stemmed from real grief felt for these people.

Favorite passage:  "She’s suspicious of people who don’t snoop; she thinks it suggests a lack of curiosity."

The verdict: The World Without You is a deeply affecting, character-driven novel and one I won't soon forget. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: June 19, 2012 
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The World Without You from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

19 comments:

  1. WOW...sounds like a must read. Not sure why I haven't read it yet as I do have it. Thanks for the encouragement.

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    1. Diane, I think you'd really enjoy this one. It's a great northeastern summer novel. And a great novel period.

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  2. I have been (as always) looking for another good book to devour. Using my newly downloaded Albany public library iPhone app to search for this ;) thanks woman!

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    1. You're so modern! I think you'll enjoy this one!

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  3. I added this to my TBR -- this sounds marvelous -- and that quote you included so resonates for me -- that's (unfortunately???) my attitude sometimes! :)

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    1. Yes, me too! Isn't that what makes us such big readers? I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this one!

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  4. Sounds wonderful. I enjoyed Matrimony. I think he has a knack for creating realistic characters and dialogue. PLUS, he is one of the hardest working, nicest authors I've ever "met" on the web!

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    1. Ti, I feel the same way about hard working and nice! When he emailed me to ask if I would like a copy of his book, he was unbelievably nice and gracious. I felt bad because I thought he was famous enough to not have to work so hard at his own marketing! I have a paperback copy of Matrimony and plan to take it to the beach next week. I can't wait!

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  5. I am really glad you liked this one, and think that from your description, I will too. I tend to love heavily character centered books, and will be looking for this one when I can. Very nice review. The quote you chose reflects a lot about the style of the writing.

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    1. Zibilee, I'll look forward to your thoughts if you find time to read this one. It's one that will stick with me for quite some time.

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    1. Exactly! I adored it. It's so summery, yet still excellent literary fiction.

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  7. Oh, sounds good. I haven't read Matrimony yet either, but it has been on my to-read list too.

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    1. Jenny, I'm planning to take Matrimony on vacation next week and am glad this novel finally compelled me to read Henkin.

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  8. Glad this one worked so well for you. I have Matrimony on my TBR (forever) and should really jump in. Was also pleased to see Joshua Henkin join Twitter a while back.

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    1. Yes! It's fun to have him on Twitter. I'm looking forward to reading Matrimony soon too.

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  9. I agree completely that it is so important for the emotion to feel genuine, instead of manipulative. This sounds like a great read.

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    1. Lindsey, I may have bawled my eyes out when I read my first Kristin Hannah novel, but it's just not the same. I haven't cried that hard for a literary gem in quite some time, and it felt so good.

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  10. Excellent review! I FINALLY read The World Without You and just reviewed it. I linked to your review.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!