Friday, August 10, 2012

The World Without You by Joshua Henkin

This is an interesting study of a family dealing with the death of their youngest son, a journalist kidnapped and killed in Iraq.  A year after his death the family gathers at their summer home in the Berkshires for a memorial.  The parents, David and Marilyn, are on the verge of separation, unable to cope with Leo's death.  The eldest sister, Clarissa, and her husband Nathaniel are coping with both the death and her inability to conceive.  Despite these troubles their relationship is one of the stronger ones. The next sister, Lily, is angry at the world and her family and pushes her long term boyfriend, Malcolm, away by insisting she needs to deal with the memorial on her own.  The youngest sister, Noelle, who was a promiscuous delinquent in high school and college has found her Jewish religion, together with her husband who was the fat troublemaking kid in Lily's highschool class.  They now live in Jerusalem with their four sons and return for the memorial full of religious superiority and refusing to eat anything prepared at the home though David and Marilyn have not only purchased kosher food but an entire kitchen's worth of new utensils and dishes.  Also joining the "party" are Leo's widow, Thisbe, and their three year old son.  She thinks only Lily knows about her new relationship and she's struggling to figure out how to share it with the others, especially her mother-in-law who she fears.  Not a lot really happens in the book but the interactions between these characters, their history with Leo, and their relationship with their grandmother, Gretchen, who's very wealthy and doles out money to those who she currently favours (which is constantly in flux) are fascinating to watch.  The characters are so realistic you almost feel like you're eavesdropping on conversations at the beach or on the subway.  I recommend this book if you're interested in people and family relationships but not if you're expecting a lot of action.

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