Customer Reviews for

The World Without You: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
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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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  • Posted July 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    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 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.

    22 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 26, 2012

    Joshua Henkin's book, The World Without You, the sentences-the c

    Joshua Henkin's book, The World Without You, the sentences-the craft of writing-disappear. I had trouble picking out moments when the point of view in the book shifted from character to character, let alone picking out a stand-out sentence. The writing is almost invisible here, and so it transports the reader. I spent the better part of last weekend on the couch with this book, but although I was on a couch in Queens, I felt like I was in a vacation house in the Berkshires over the 4th of July, getting ready for a memorial service for my journalist brother/husband/son who'd been killed in Iraq. I was immersed. Josh's writing disappears so that the experience is seamless-you open his book and you suddenly aren't you anymore. You're in his world. Tricky word play would pull the reader right out and despite the sadness pervasive in this book, I'll bet that when you read it you'd rather be in than out.

    One of the delicious aspects of this book is that the reader alone is privy to both what is in each of the characters' heads and hearts as well as what they think of, and say about, each other. The reader becomes the one trusted confident in a tense household of people who love each other and yet withhold their full selves.

    The magical construction of this book-how did the points of view shift so often, without being confusing, often mid-chapter?-impressed me, as did Josh's incredible imagination. This isn't fight-to-the-death, wizards and sparkly vampire sort of imagination (do I sound old and grumpy with that? also can you tell I haven't read any of those books?), but it is imagination that creates whole worlds nonetheless. Each character in the novel-and there are many-had a fully realized past, present and in some cases, future. I guarantee that if you asked Josh to recount each sisters' high school report card, he could do it-he'd know what each girl was best at, he'd also know where she'd have sat in a room if she had a choice, who she dated, what kinds of other girls she was friends with and probably what she loved to eat for snack. The details all mattered-these were real people to me as I was reading about them. So real that their small dramas mattered to me like my friends' dramas do, or even like my own do. There was a big, important, political and tragic death at the heart of this novel, but orbiting it were many medium-sized tragedies (infertility, divorce) and tiny ones, too (bonding moments thwarted, feelings hurt).

    There's a real treat on the last page of this novel, which I won't give away, but it is a leap that felt like a gift from Josh to his readers, many of whom, like me, were (will be!) probably very sorry to finish his book. It was a gift that let me imagine that these characters didn't finish living when I finished reading them, but continue on, somewhere in the world.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Poignant. Heartbreaking. Touching. There are a lot of words I co

    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.




    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.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

    Stunning

    Every once in a while you find a book written in such a way that you want to savor it...make it last...like an excellent meal...small bites. This is one of those books.

    It is a family drama. They are anti-Bush WITH GOOD REASON as shown in the narrative. The story focuses on The World Without You...the You being Leo Frankel, a journalist taken hostage and killed in Iraq. It is a year later and his family gather for a memorial service.

    It is a novel about fictional characters but I will miss the extended Frankel family. Their story is delicious.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    Highly recommended

    A very enjoyable beautiful book about family and LOVE!!

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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 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

    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 July 30, 2013

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    Posted July 28, 2012

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    Posted November 25, 2012

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