By: Joshua Henkin
Published: June 19, 2012
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.
Three years ago, our book club had an opportunity to chat with Joshua Henkin and discuss his book MATRIMONY. We had a great time chatting and discussing the book with him and also talking about writing in general. Check out my review HERE. When Joshua Henkin contacted me to read and review his newest novel, I jumped at the chance.
I was drawn into the family's different levels of dysfunction as well as their grief over the loss of their son and brother. But, what I wasn't drawn into was the overt liberal rhetoric throughout the novel. The Bush-Hate was so strong and blatant that it actually started to turn me off on the novel. It made me wonder if this was the author's way to get his political views out to the world. I understand there are people in our country who have strong opinions about the war and it was definitely feasible that the characters in this story would feel this way. But, it felt over the top at times. For those with a conservative view, it could be a turn-off.
I tried to ignore the political talk and focus instead on the family dynamics and the characters individual stories. The level of grief each family member was feeling was very real for me and I felt their pain and hesitations with each other. Their stories were well written and developed and I felt a connection to each one.
If you are looking for a story with a huge climax and page-turning drama, this won't be for you. But if you are looking for a relaxing family story for a lazy summer day, this would be a great choice.
Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels MATRIMONY, a New York Times Notable Book, and SWIMMING ACROSS THE HUDSON, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book. His short stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, and broadcast on NPR's "Selected Shorts." He lives in Brooklyn, NY, and directs the MFA program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College. Learn more about Henkin at his website www.JoshuaHenkin.com. You can also follow him on Facebook HERE or Twitter HERE. You can purchase THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU on Amazon HERE.