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The World Without You: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – April 9, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277183
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Featured Guest Review: Hannah Tinti

Hannah Tinti

Hannah Tinti is the author of Animal Crackers and The Good Thief, winner of the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and a New York Times Notable Book of the year.

Joshua Henkin is an expert at capturing the complicated dynamics and intricate nuances of family relationships, examining the bonds that bind and fray between husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, as well as parents and children—first in his novels Swimming Across the Hudson and Matrimony, and now with The World Without You.

Set in 2005, over the Fourth of July holiday, The World Without You follows the Frankel family as they gather at their summer home in the Berkshires to memorialize Leo, their youngest son, who was killed while working as a journalist in Iraq (in a situation reminiscent of Daniel Pearl’s 2002 murder in Pakistan). One year after Leo’s death, his wife is taking the first steps towards a new relationship, his parents Marilyn and David are on the brink of divorce, and his sisters are struggling too: Clarissa with infertility, Noelle (a born-again Orthodox Jew) with her identity, and Lily with the anger she is carrying over the loss of her brother. As the Frankel family takes their first, tentative steps out of mourning, each tries to find a new place in a world, while understanding that Leo’s death has changed them, and their family, forever.

The World Without You asks important questions: how do we move on after losing someone we love? And how do we love again? Joshua Henkin, that giving-tree of a writer, skillfully leads us through the ups and downs of his characters’ emotional worlds, understanding that moments of kindness can refill us with hope, and that family is a bond that can weather any storm.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Insightful. . . . Poignant. . . . Elegant.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A wonderful novel. . . . I just love it.”
—Anne Lamott, The Miami Herald

—O, The Oprah Magazine

“A keenly observed and compassionate novel. . . . Tenderness spills from these pages.”
Entertainment Weekly

“[A] densely detailed and touching portrait.”

“[Henkin] grounds his novel in both time and place, creating a living, breathing world. . . . Gorgeously written.”
The Boston Globe

“Few American novelists, living or dead, have ever been as good as Henkin at drawing people.”
—Commentary Magazine

“Intimate and insightful. . . . Reminds us that families are icebergs, with nine-tenths of their emotions just below the surface, capable of wreaking havoc when struck.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“Witty, poignant, and heartfelt.”
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

“In the course of [a] long weekend, old and new tensions . . . bubble to the surface. It could be the plot of a Chekhov play or a Woody Allen movie. But on this classic narrative scaffolding, Joshua Henkin develops a painfully contemporary situation. . . . The skill with which Henkin explores the points of view and personae of his ensemble cast is masterful.”

Vanity Fair

“Henkin is a writer of voluminous heart, humanity, and talent.”
—Julia Glass, author of The Widower’s Tale

“Masterful . . . . Here are Tanglewood concerts overheard, fireflies, skinny-dipping, an intense tennis game, fireworks, jalapeno-lime corn on the cob and white gazpacho. Henkin gets all the details just right. Think ‘The Big Chill,’ family style.”
—The New York Jewish Week

“Pleasingly old-fashioned. . . . [A] warm-hearted novel.”
—The Washington Post

“A triumph and an important novel about America.”
—Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

“In 2005, if a novelist had published a book that hinged on the murder of a Jewish American journalist by Islamic terrorists in Iraq, it would have been read as a political novel, a war novel, a post-9/11 novel—and, of course, a roman a clef about Daniel Pearl. . . . Yet the passage of time has made it possible for Henkin to turn this headline-news premise into a book that is quiet, inward-turning, and largely apolitical. . . . Henkin is a novelist of distinguished gifts.”

“An immeasurably moving masterpiece.”
—Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers

“Henkin takes no sides in his novel. He simply presents his characters as they are, as they think, as they feel, how they interact and lets it all reveal whatever it may. . . . A novel for mature readers—those who like fiction providing insight into how people actually live.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“[Resembles] Richard Ford’s luminescent novel The Sportswriter. . . . Wonderful. . . . Powerful.”
The Rumpus

“The American family in crisis has long represented rich source material for writers, from Hawthorne to Morrison. In his deeply felt new novel, Joshua Henkin offers his contemporary contribution. . . . [Characters] leap uncensored off the page as powerful and fully realized human beings, rather than types. . . . Heartfelt.”
The Miami Herald

“Marvelous on the solitudes that exist even within the strongest and most compassionate of families.”
—Jim Shepard, author of You Think That’s Bad

 “Gives us a welcome portrait of the repercussions of faraway wars on people who usually consider themselves to be spectators. . . . Compassionate and beguiling.”
—NPR Books

 “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.”
—Library Journal

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Customer Reviews

As I read this book, I kept hoping that it would get better.
Cheryl Feinberg
The characters just did not speak to me, I felt they were a bit flat, and I was unable to invest anything emotionally in them.
Lauri Crumley Coates
Loved everything about this book -- the writing, the story, the characters.
Margie Greenblatt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Laurel-Rain Snow TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A lovely summer home in the Berkshires is the scene of a very special get-together.

The Frankel family, including the parents, David and Marilyn and their three daughters Clarissa, Lily, and Noelle, will be memorializing the death of their beloved son and brother, Leo, one year after his tragic demise. They each descend upon the site of so many previous family gatherings, knowing full well that the memories from the past will accompany them as they take this journey without their fallen son and brother.

As the family gathers, bringing them all from their respective homes and lives, the reader learns a bit about each of them and what issues and struggles define them; we also discover how the loss of Leo redefines who they are in relation to one another and how their lives now look in his absence. Clarissa and her husband are struggling with fertility issues; Lily has asked her partner not to come, so she can vent her anger and just be who she is; and Noelle, who has been living in Israel with her husband and four children and practicing Orthodox Judaism, has some uncertainties of her own.

Also joining them is Thisbet, Leo's widow, and their son Calder. Always feeling a bit like an outsider, Thisbet's journey from California brings with it a residue of these emotions, along with a secret she plans to share.

What will happen to each of them now that they have to go on without Leo? Will the siblings somehow reunite and grow close again, forgetting about the things that have divided them over the years? Or will they forever be changed, and not for the better?

A journalist, Leo's capture and killing in Iraq has also brought up strong feelings about the political aspects of the war for several family members.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on July 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Henkin's story of a family that gathers over the 4th of July holiday for a memorial service for the only son, a journalist, killed in Iraq, is both intimate, and raw in it's emotions. The parents forty year marriage is on the outs because of the tragedy, and Marilyn, the Mother is fretting over how and when to tell her three daughters all of whom have their own issues. Add to that the widow, and daughter in law Thisbe, who has arrived with her son, and her own conflicted feelings, having already gotten involved with another man a little over a year after her husbands death. Henkin avoids the proceedings becoming overwrought or melodramatic, but instead peels back the curtain on a slice of life with characters that at times might not be likable, but whose emotions feel real and genuine.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By asiana VINE VOICE on August 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book, but was really glad when I finished reading it.

The story revolves around three sisters,all with differing personalities that one wonders if they really are related--one is trying to conceive, another has become an Orthodox Jew living in Israel with four young sons and a somewhat abusive husband, and another seems to have a happy relationship. Add to this, their parents who are planning a divorce after years of marriage,a dead son whose memorial service all are attending a year after his death, his "grieving" widow and their young child and you have the makings of a fine story. But, the author, instead of allowing the reader to "feel" the emotions of the various characters, "tells" in minute detail what they are feeling. This led to my thinking "is the end soon?" Sorry, but I can't recommend this book.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In the Berkshires, during an enervating July Fourth weekend, three generations of Frankels gather together in 2005 for a memorial to their beloved son, brother, and spouse, Leo Frankel, a journalist who was kidnapped and killed in the Iraq War the previous year. As memories of Leo float through the narrative, old resentments and new secrets float to the top like crude oil in a jar of hearts. Henkin didn't break any new contextual ground here. He was going for the familiar themes of loss, perseverance, understanding, love despite all, forgiveness, and redemption within a garden-variety package tied up with some stock twine.

You've seen this family before in domestic dramas: the 21st century elite, pedigreed, liberal, secular family with a few black sheep conservatives. Just about all the Ivy League or first tier colleges are represented, and those who didn't obtain their PhDs or MDs are smarter than the ones who did.

One of the three beautiful daughters, Noelle, seems overtly fabricated. Henkin is trying to convince the reader that Noelle was once a sex-obsessed alley cat who moved to Israel and, par to the characteristic flip side of the personal coin, became an Orthodox Jew, with the support of her American husband, also turned Orthodox Jewish. A portrayal of two extremes in one person is not an unusual profile, and in fact is a prevalent human composition.

However, I was not convinced that first-incarnation Noelle was anything but a free spirit--refreshing and curious, independent and phase-healthy. Her morphing into a compulsive Orthodox, adhering so rigidly that they even bring their own Kosher food from Israel to this weekend, rejecting the Kosher food offered by her parents, was patently unbelievable.
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