Customer Reviews for

The World Without You: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
( 47 )
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(15)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

22 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

I was not sure if I should read this book or not because it very

I was not sure if I should read this book or not because it very much reflects my own life. My son was also killed in Iraq in 2005. Our family (which consists of 3 daughters and another son) will simply never be the same - my husband and I have a relationship that mim...
I was not sure if I should read this book or not because it very much reflects my own life. My son was also killed in Iraq in 2005. Our family (which consists of 3 daughters and another son) will simply never be the same - my husband and I have a relationship that mimics David's and Marilyn's. Shall I stay or shall I go? I highlighted so much of this book because so much of it rang true. I hit tennis balls with the same vengeance that Marilyn does - an exorcism of sorts, I suspect. I wrote letters, visited congressmen, spoke at anti-war events for the first couple of years... and then I just felt defeated. My husband works, at his job - but not with the same commitment that he once had. After all, Michael was supposed to take over the business. He is physically always in motion - fixing and CHOPPING, just like David. My girls run - for themselves and for Michael.
I am quite amazed that Joshua Henkins could capture the emotions that he does in this novel - but I related to every page that he wrote.

posted by cider12 on July 12, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

19 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

Three years ago, our book club had an opportunity to chat with J

Three years ago, our book club had an opportunity to chat with Joshua Henkin and discuss his book MATRIMONY. We had a great time chatting and discussing the book with him and also talking about writing in general. When Joshua Henkin contacted me to read and review his...
Three years ago, our book club had an opportunity to chat with Joshua Henkin and discuss his book MATRIMONY. We had a great time chatting and discussing the book with him and also talking about writing in general. When Joshua Henkin contacted me to read and review his newest novel, I jumped at the chance.

I was drawn into the family's different levels of dysfunction as well as their grief over the loss of their son and brother. But, what I wasn't drawn into was the overt liberal rhetoric throughout the novel. The Bush-Hate was so strong and blatant that it actually started to turn me off on the novel. It made me wonder if this was the author's way to get his political views out to the world. I understand there are people in our country who have strong opinions about the war and it was definitely feasible that the characters in this story would feel this way. But, it felt over the top at times. For those with a conservative view, it could be a turn-off.

I tried to ignore the political talk and focus instead on the family dynamics and the characters individual stories. The level of grief each family member was feeling was very real for me and I felt their pain and hesitations with each other. Their stories were well written and developed and I felt a connection to each one.

If you are looking for a story with a huge climax and page-turning drama, this won't be for you. But if you are looking for a relaxing family story for a lazy summer day, this would be a great choice.

posted by SincerelyStacie on June 19, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2012

    This was a decent summer beach rea, but nothing more. I thought

    This was a decent summer beach rea, but nothing more. I thought the characters were not well-developed (Clarissa and Lily seemed like the same person to me), and I agree with the other reviewers that the whole "hate Bush" thing is kind of done. The story line of the parents' separation was also not well-developed or particularly convincing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2012

    The World Without You

    This is the story of a family who meet at their parents' summer house for the one-year memorial of their brother's death. It is not just any story...it is a story where we get intimate insight into each character, their relationship with their deceased brother and with each other. I loved this book and plan to read Henkin's backlist. The writing is fantastic. I highly recommend this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    Beautifully Written

    I could not put this book down

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  • Posted June 26, 2012

    This is an absorbing, fast, entertaining read featuring a great

    This is an absorbing, fast, entertaining read featuring a great story, great characters, great details (one character "almost lost a toe, cutting it on a Pringles can during a water fight"). I loved the one-liners. "He used to work for a catering company, and the reigning wisdom was, a third more food for a Jewish event, a third less drink." Wesleyan is a college "where the students idea of exercise was to walk to the store to buy cigarettes."

    Though the context is a family that lost a member in the Iraq War, the book did not strike me as heavy-handedly political; the book probably would have worked almost as well if the character had died of cancer and the grieving mother had become an anti-smoking activist instead of an antiwar activist. It struck me as more a book about family and relationships and mourning than about war.

    The book is about the aftermath of a death, so it has a certain sadness about it, though not oppressively so. It winds up on a fairly upbeat note (I think I can say that without spoiling the story).

    The author is a friend of mine.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2012

    The World Without You - It's about family

    Someone vital and important to you has died. Sitting in a room accepting condolences from neighbors, friends and family the world seems so unreal. You are busy with death and the after effects. The shiva calls end or the wake is over and everyone goes home. Looking out the window the earth has continued to spin. Children play games with their friends. Husbands and wives go to work, eat dinner, lie down with one another, but you just sit and wonder “how can life go on without the one you love?”
    One year after the death of their only son Leo, a reporter in Iraq who was kidnapped and murdered while on assignment, Marilyn and David Frankel request the presence of their adult daughters and Leo's widow and young son at a ceremony to remember Leo. Each character is dealing not only with the loss of Leo, but also with personal and familial difficulties (infertility, mistimed love, moving on, marital strife, etc.)
    At its essence this book is about family. There is a political slant to the novel, but that is life - no? Joshua Henkin has included a political perspective regarding the war in Iraq. Is this his perspective or is it the perspective of the characters? His characters were so perfectly written it would be impossible to believe that they felt otherwise.
    What is important about The World Without You is the truth of the family. Joshua Henkin has written the characters in such a clear manner that I felt that I knew them -they were my neighbors, my friends, my classmates. I could not put the book down, and did not want it to end. Very rarely is that the case.
    There are no car chases, murders, or other big events that to draw the narrative forward because the “big event” happened a year ago when Leo was murdered. The after effects shine here. The World Without You is about how life happens and goes on even when you do not particularly want it to.
    A beautiful book - thank you Joshua.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The best literary fiction (and Joshua Henkin’s latest is o

    The best literary fiction (and Joshua Henkin’s latest is one of the best literary novels I have read in a while) has the power to insert the reader into worlds that seem every bit as real as the one they actually inhabit. By the time I finished The World without You, I felt as if I had just spent a rather tense Fourth of July weekend in the Berkshires with my friends, the Frankels and their spouses. Henkin’s characters, all of them, are so well developed that I would feel quite comfortable now chatting with any of them over a cup of coffee or casual lunch. I know these people.

    David and Marilyn, their three daughters, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren gather at the family vacation home for what they already know will be an emotional weekend. They are there to participate in a memorial service for the youngest Frankel, Leo, a journalist who had been kidnapped and murdered in Iraq almost exactly one year earlier. Despite the passage of an entire year, it soon becomes clear that all of them are still suffering from the trauma of Leo’s sudden loss. Emotions are raw, nerves are on edge, and as old resentments and outrages are openly expressed, the family’s very survival will be tested.

    A scene from the novel, in which Leo’s parents together describe an incident at a cocktail party they attended eight months after Leo’s death, is so powerful that it haunts me still. Asked by a stranger at the party how many children they have, Marilyn answers “four” at precisely the moment her husband replies with “three.” In that instant, Marilyn felt, and still feels, a surge of anger and hurt that may have forever tainted the way she looks at David and their marriage. David, for his part, still cannot understand why what he said was so terrible. This tiny moment from their lives made me understand the depth of their grief.

    The beauty of The World without You and Joshua Henkin’s writing is that so many of the other characters also had moving and poignant moments in which they become utterly believable to the reader. Ultimately, this is not really a story about Leo Frankel and what happened to him in Iraq. Rather, it is a novel about the people Leo left behind to live in the world without him, and how these people have had their lives forever changed by his murder. To reconcile themselves to the grief they feel, all of them will be forced to dig deeply within themselves – a process that finally begins one Fourth of July weekend in the Berkshires.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2012

    A lovely summer home in the Berkshires is the scene of a very s


    A lovely summer home in the Berkshires is the scene of a very special get-together.

    The Frankel family, including the parents, David and Marilyn and their three daughters Clarissa, Lily, and Noelle, will be memorializing the death of their beloved son and brother, Leo, one year after his tragic demise. They each descend upon the site of so many previous family gatherings, knowing full well that the memories from the past will accompany them as they take this journey without their fallen son and brother.

    As the family gathers, bringing them all from their respective homes and lives, the reader learns a bit about each of them and what issues and struggles define them; we also discover how the loss of Leo redefines who they are in relation to one another and how their lives now look in his absence. Clarissa and her husband are struggling with fertility issues; Lily has asked her partner not to come, so she can vent her anger and just be who she is; and Noelle, who has been living in Israel with her husband and four children and practicing Orthodox Judaism, has some uncertainties of her own.

    Also joining them is Thisbet, Leo's widow, and their son Calder. Always feeling a bit like an outsider, Thisbet's journey from California brings with it a residue of these emotions, along with a secret she plans to share.

    What will happen to each of them now that they have to go on without Leo? Will the siblings somehow reunite and grow close again, forgetting about the things that have divided them over the years? Or will they forever be changed, and not for the better?

    A journalist, Leo's capture and killing in Iraq has also brought up strong feelings about the political aspects of the war for several family members.

    The characters sprang to life on the pages for me, and my emotions about them felt like those I would have for real people, including the irritations that are part of normal interactions. I found Noelle and her spouse quite self-righteous and annoying, but as time passed, I came to see their pain and vulnerabilities. Lily's anger softened as she shared some of her feelings.

    But the onslaught of feelings, along with a few secrets, unleashed during the sojourn at the summer cottage, begins to change how each of them sees one another and how they now see the future.

    The World Without You: A Novel lost a bit of momentum for me in the mid-section, resulting in some difficulty in continuing to connect with the story; however, toward the end, I was once again fully engaged and enjoying the characters and their lives. Four stars.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2012

    Joshua Henkin's latest book The World Without You: A Novel is a

    Joshua Henkin's latest book The World Without You: A Novel is a portrait of a family reverberating from the death of the youngest sibling and only son Leo, who was a journalist in Iraq. Henkin quickly draws us into the swirling, emotional whirlpool of the Frankel family.

    This book takes place over the July 4th holiday in 2005, one year after Leo's death, and he is the long shadow over the family (and the primary You in the book's title).
    Leo's parents, his 3 older sisters with their families, and his widow with her 3-year-old son, all converge on Lenox, a Western Massachusetts town where the Frankel family have a summer house, for a memorial service on the anniversary of Leo's death.

    The Frankel family is going through a theme park full of emotional roller coasters, many triggered or acerbated by Leo's passing.

    His parents Marilyn and David are splitting up. His eldest sister and her husband - Clarissa and Nathaniel, have decided after Leo's death to have a child, but are encountering the usual late 30's fertility issues. The middle sister Lily has come up from Washington without her live-in boyfriend (neither the formality of marriage or children appear on the horizon), and the youngest sister Noelle, had 10 years earlier transitioned from promiscuous hell-raiser to orthodox Jewish wife in Israel raising 4 boys with a mostly, but not entirely nebbish husband. Leo's widow Thisbe is conflicted as to how to communicate to her in-laws that she has begun to move on with her life.

    In titling his book, The World Without You, Henkin of course is referring to the deceased Leo, but the meanings unfold as each set of couple undergoes various stresses and strains. We see the "You" also refers to spouses and partners as the various couples become separated spatially or emotionally and are forced to re-evaluate their relationships.

    The World Without You: A Novel not only whisks the reader away to a fascinating story, but shines a light on our own world, and helps us to understand it a little better.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2012

    The World Without You By Joshua Henkin Summary... A family com

    The World Without You
    By
    Joshua Henkin

    Summary...

    A family comes together to their summer home for their son Leo's memorial.

    My Thoughts...

    This is a beautiful lyrical soulful book.  I want to both love and run away from this family.  Some of them I wanted to hug and others I wanted to shake.  The only person I felt real sympathy for was David...the father.  Marilyn...the mother...OMG...a mess after her son Leo' death.  Everyone else was flawed and irritating.  I say irritating but it was the kind of irritation that just made me want to know more and more about them.

    I loved this book...it drew me in from the very first page.  First of all...it takes place mostly in the Berkshires...an area that I love.  Then the book tackles the issues each member of this family face as they come together for  Leo's ( brother/son/ husband ) memorial service.

    The flashbacks are huge in this book.  Everyone has baggage and everyone has issues and no one is really coping very well at all.

    Marilyn has decided to leave David.  One daughter is desperate for a baby.  Another daughter lives in Israel and has no clue who she is or why she married her husband.  Leo's widow is there... lost, sad and worrying about telling everyone about her new relationship.  Another daughter is in a long term relationship with no plans to marry or have children.

    Those are the small stories within the big story.  And sort of always hovering in the background is Gretchen...the 94 year old matriarch with tons of money who rigidly supports everyone.  

    This book has a lovely thoughtful ending.  I sing out the praises for this book.  It was touching, moving, and beautiful.

    I am so glad I read it.





    Sent from my iPad2 by Patty Magyar

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2012

    This is an exceptional novel - I'm sure it will be one of my fav

    This is an exceptional novel - I'm sure it will be one of my favorite reads of the summer. Henkin's characters come alive and stay with you long after the book is finished. Don't miss it - and if you are in a book club - its perfect!

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  • Posted June 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The World Without You is the story of a family struggling to com

    The World Without You is the story of a family struggling to come together--physically and emotionally--one year after the loss of the youngest sibling, Leo, a journalist killed in Iraq in 2004. As the family gathers for the July 4th holiday in their vacation home in the Berkshires, it becomes clear that the loss of their son and brother is not the only fracture in their relationships. The parents' marriage is crumbling, the eldest sister is so focused on trying to get pregnant she is neglecting just about everything else in her life, the youngest daughter is a promiscuous wild child turned Orthodox Jew who has moved to Jerusalem and feels alienated everywhere, and the middle child is must plain angry. Then there's Leo's widow, who is struggling to raise their young child without him. The story is about trying to let go and trying to hold on, about what--and who--we can live without if we must, and who--and what--we should try harder to keep.

    This novel brought up a lot of emotions for me. Set in 2005, in the midst of the Iraq war, it reminded me of the anger and horror that was commonplace on the nightly news, particularly the murder and televised beheading of an American journalist. Although I am Canadian, those images were so shocking that it made the whole world feel less safe. Plus, this is the third or fourth novel I have read in the past few months that deals with the death or serious illness of a child. As a parent, I'm just not sure how much more I can take of this subject matter. I think after this I'm going to take a break from novels that are about parents losing children. It's just too much heartache for me.

    For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.

    Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 26, 2012

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