Rachel's Reviews > The World Without You

The World Without You by Joshua Henkin
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Jul 02, 12

Read in July, 2012

This is a strong story about a family whose rocky relationships are thrown into sharper relief in the wake of tragedy. I think Henkin does a wonderful job of painting the many different characters in this large family, and how different people raised by the same parents can respond to a situation. Because the author chose to have the action off stage as it were (one of the brothers, Leo, is a journalist who was killed a year ago in Iraq) I'm not sure we got the deep sense of grief they are feeling, though Leo's mother, Marilyn, certainly says that her entire life has been taken over by grief. Still, there are some fascinating subjects here -- the broad range of adult responses to adversity, marriage as an endless dance of compromise, self-identity as it is tied to success in work and/or finances, and maybe most interesting, the question of what America has become for Americans. What does our country stand for? Are we satisfied with the way the world sees us? What about the way we see ourselves? If the country's loss of self-identity is responsible for Leo's death, as Marilyn seems to imply by writing an endless series of op eds about what happened to her son, how can we reconcile ourselves to continuing to live in it? And how can we justify allowing such an event to undermine all of the other parts of our lives? These are some of the questions that Henkin wrestles with in his book, and I think it is to his credit that he doesn't attempt to give pat answers, though he does endeavor to end on a hopeful note which I appreciate, as an American wrestling with these questions myself.
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