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The World without Youby Joshua Henkin
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Like a more bittersweet version of Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You or a less chilly variation on Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Henkin (Matrimony) tenderly explores family dynamics in this novel about the ties that bind, and even lacerate. One year after the death of their kidnapped journalist son, Leo, in Iraq, David and Marilyn Frankel, non-practicing Jews, call their entire mishpocha to their summer home in the Berkshires to attend his memorial service: Clarissa and her husband, Nathaniel, who, after years of putting off parenthood, are having a difficult time getting pregnant; Lily, a D.C. lawyer who shows up without Malcolm, her restaurateur boyfriend of 10 years; Noelle, an Orthodox Jew who arrives from Jerusalem with her husband, Amram, and their four children; and Thisbe, Leo's widow, a grad student who flies in from Berkeley with their three-year-old son, Calder. Over the course of the Fourth of July holiday, David and Marilyn will make a stunning announcement; Thisbe will reveal a secret; a game of Celebrity will cause Amram to drive off into the night; Leo will be remembered; and someone will pee on the carpet. The author has created an empathetic cast of characters that the reader will love spending time with, even as they behave like fools and hurt one another. An intelligently written novel that works as a summer read and for any other time of the year. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Ever since reading, and loving, Joshua Henkin's beautiful novel, Matrimony, I've been waiting for his next one — and now, at last, here it is. I know I'm not the only reader eager to sink into The World without You. It's no secret that Henkin is a writer of voluminous heart, humanity, and talent." Julia Glass, author of The Widower's Tale
"A keen observer of American life, Joshua Henkin imbues The World without You with wisdom, humor, and a clear sense of history. By mapping out the familiar and the strange, the changed and unchanged, territories of contemporary life, this book is a triumph and an important novel about America." Yiyun Lee, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl
"The World without You is an immeasurably moving masterpiece that tracks the intricate threads connecting children to parents, sisters to brothers, wives to husbands. To say I 'cared' about these characters would be to hugely understate their consuming effect on me. Like all loving — and complicated, and generous — families, they extended a thread to me. I too, was connected. I lived in their midst, I learned from them, and their poignant struggles continued to affect me long after I read the final page." Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers
"The World without You is marvelous on the solitudes that exist even within the strongest and most compassionate of families, and I love the relentlessness with which it reminds us that our politics will reach its wrecking ball into the lives of even those of us who are most comfortable." Jim Shepard, author of You Think That's Bad
"This book is witty and wise, poignant and heartfelt. The 4th of July will never be the same for me, nor for my fellow Americans. I can't imagine a world without Joshua Henkin." Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
About the Author
Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels Swimming Across the Hudson (a Los Angeles Times Notable Book) and Matrimony (a New York Times Notable Book). His stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in Best American Short Stories and broadcast on NPR's Selected Shorts. He directs the MFA Program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College.
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