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World Without You (Henkin) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Grief can be a divisive force, especially within families. Sorrow can’t ­really be shared, as Joshua Henkin illustrates in his insightful third novel, The World Without You. The book opens a year after the death of Leo Frankel, a ­Daniel Pearl-like journalist killed on assignment in Iraq, as his family gathers at their summer home in the Berkshires for a memorial.... The World Without You definitely favors character over plot. The most dramatic event, Leo’s death, has already happened.... Henkin rotates through his cast, moving elegantly from one perspective to another and providing ample background to illuminate the tensions each person feels in the present. The World Without You shows how loss forces people to reconceive of themselves, a painful but necessary ­transformation.
New York Times Book Review


It's damn difficult to make the basic unhappy-family novel distinctly one's own. Henkin does so with a one-two combination of strengths: psychological empathy for his realistic characters, and an expository modesty that draws attention away from the skilled writing itself...in order to focus, with great care, on the subtleties and complications of familial love.... Tenderness spills from these pages.
Lisa Schwarzbaum - Entertainment Weekly


Blazingly alive....[Henkin] grounds his novel in both time and place, creating a living, breathing world.... Gorgeously written, and as beautifully detailed as a tapestry, Henkin delicately probes what these family members really mean to one another....[C]ompassionate, intelligent, and shining.
Caroline Leavit - Boston Globe


A densely detailed and touching portrait.
People


The World Without You gives us a welcome portrait of the repercussions of faraway wars on people who usually consider themselves to be spectators.... [P]owerful and unexpected...compassionate and beguiling.
Jane Ciabattari - NPR Books


Could be the plot of a Chekhov play or a Woody Allen movie.... [The book explores] with subtlety and feeling the meaning of family, both those we are born with and those we choose, those we leave behind and those with whom we soldier on.”
Marion Winik - Newsday


Pleasingly old-fashioned.... [A] warm-hearted novel.”
Wendy Smith - Washington Post


Deeply felt...striking...vivid.... [T]he novel is permeated with small moments of restored intimacy. There’s a lot of tender feeling here for the American family, on the ropes for sure, but well worth fighting for, Henkin’s heartfelt novel insists.”
Andrew Furman - Miami Herald


The members of the Frankel family seem unhappy enough, in their own individual ways, but it also seems as if happiness has never really been an option for them, as if it were an item that had somehow been left off the menu of life.... [The] little details, in fact, the bits and pieces of choice and circumstance, fortune and misfortune, that make up the mosaic of each individual's life, is what this subtle and ingenious novel is about.... [A] novel for mature readers—those who like fiction providing insight into how people actually live.
Frank Wilson - Philadelphia Inquirer


Intimate and insightful.... In The World Without You, Henkin...reminds us that families are icebergs, with nine-tenths of their emotions just below the surface, capable of wreaking havoc when struck.
Glenn C. Altschuler - San Francisco Chronicle


Henkin juggles [his] large cast of characters with ease, telling a poignant story while maintaining each unique identity. This is no small trick, as the characters are neither perfect nor perfectly unlikeable. They are, in the end, a family. They do what families do, which is a complex dance of happy and sad, of distance and intimacy.
Robin Vidimos - Denver Post


A poignant and moving novel.... Henkin is a polished writer with an eye for detail...but where he really shines is in how he tenderly reveals each character’s complex personality, layer by layer.... [A] moving story and a good read, and, from start to finish, deeply honest.
Abigail Pickus - Times of Israel


Henkin is a master at letting his characters emerge in subtle but captivating ways.... [A] deeply woven and affecting novel about grief.
Wingate Packard - Seattle Times


Henkin's prose is as smooth and clear as a morning lake. You want to dip back in for the specificity of detail and feelings evoked.... The World Without You is a study of close relationships, typified by warmth and wit. The characters are sympathetic and flawed, drawn with compassionate strokes.... [T]he narrative builds tiers of tension that break unexpectedly into dramatic action, like blocks in a Jenga tower.
Jackie Reitzes - Minneapolis Star Tribune


(Starred review.) 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...tenderly explores family dynamics in this novel about the ties that bind, and even lacerate.
Publishers Weekly


The Frankel family has gathered at their summer home in the Berkshires to attend a memorial service for their youngest sibling, Leo, who was killed while reporting in Iraq. Parents Marilyn and David are struggling with their 40-year marriage while three daughters wrestle with infertility, unemployment, urban ennui, and assorted relationship tensions. Leo's widow, Thisbe, and young son Calder fly in from California with news of their own. For the few days surrounding July 4, 2005, the family members struggle with their shared pasts, uncertain futures, and each other. Verdict: Henkin (director of Brooklyn College's MFA program in fiction writing, Matrimony; Swimming Across the Hudson) might gain some new readers with this honest and well-paced look at an American family. Point this one out to contemporary fiction fans of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, or the works of Rick Moody, Richard Russo, Philip Roth, and John Updike.—Jenn B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll. Northeast
Library Journal


A family melodrama that encompasses both tragedy and farce, as an upper-middle-class clan gathers to mourn a dead son and perhaps move on. When conventionalists claim, "They don't write novels like that anymore," this is the sort of novel they mean.... Which relationships will endure, which will collapse, and which will change over the course of a long weekend? A novel that satisfies all expectations in some very familiar ways.
Kirkus Reviews




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