Elizabeth's Reviews > The World Without You

The World Without You by Joshua Henkin
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's review
May 16, 2012

it was amazing
Read in May, 2012

I would really like to give this book four and a HALF stars, but alas, that is not an option on Goodreads. So I rounded up.

The World Without You by Joshua Henkin is a novel about a big family coping with the death of a son and brother, one year after the tragedy. The novel is mostly dialogue (excellent dialogue). It contains many miniscule details (for example, washing the dishes details) that are at once amazing and irritating, but always impressive.

I like details, but they can wear on some readers (or so my ex-agent once told me, when she explained why I'd written "an award winning novel" that she wasn't even going to try to sell. This novel still lives on a thumb drive).

The details and the dialogue and the lack of serious action in The World Without You make this book clearly "literary." Enjoy the novel for its characters and the poignancy of their respective dilemmas. The novel is at once timeless and a wonderful reflection of a certain point in time (the inexplicable re-election of George W. Bush; the senseless deaths of innocents caused by the Iraq war).

From the standpoint of a fiction writer, one MUST read Henkin's newest novel for its amazing characterization and dialogue. It's like Anne Tyler, but amplified. (Anne Tyler never disappoints.) If you're trying to teach writing students what is meant by "round" characters, THIS is what is meant.

I did not love all the characters in the novel, but that's okay, because I was still interested in them, and I still wanted to try to understand them. I could not always picture the characters, but that is okay, because I can use my imagination.

What I did not have to imagine, what I could really feel, was the way each character was lost in past memories while dealing with the current demands of life. The omniscient POV here was very impressive.

I am an only child, but I could understand the complex dynamics of a family holed up together in a country house. There was an intentional stagnant quality to their being almost trapped together in this house, awaiting a memorial service for the dead son/brother. This is a universal feeling that anyone who has parents and/or siblings (and in-laws) can relate to.

Joshua Henkin does a masterful job capturing life and turning it into art. This novel feels very real, and it will leave you thinking and reminiscing long after you turn the last page.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Powers Indeed, Anne Tyler never disappoints. She captures dialogue like no other writer.

Dennis Fischman I thought all the women characters were round, the men were flat, except for Leo, the ghost who moved between dimensions.

Elizabeth Dennis wrote: "I thought all the women characters were round, the men were flat, except for Leo, the ghost who moved between dimensions."

Hmm…well, it's interesting that the author writes women so well, isn't it? The men in the novel didn't get a lot of time, but most of the male characters were not too sympathetic.

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