Someone vital and important to you has died. Sitting in a room accepting condolences from neighbors, friends and family the world seems so unreal. You are busy with death and the after effects. The shiva calls end or the wake is over and everyone goes home. Looking out the window the earth has continued to spin. Children play games with their friends. Husbands and wives go to work, eat dinner, lie down with one another, but you just sit and wonder “how can life go on without the one you love?”
One year after the death of their only son Leo, a reporter in Iraq who was kidnapped and murdered while on assignment, Marilyn and David Frankel request the presence of their adult daughters and Leo’s widow and young son at a ceremony to remember Leo. Each character is dealing not only with the loss of Leo, but also with personal and familial difficulties (infertility, mistimed love, moving on, marital strife, etc.)
At its essence this book is about family. There is a political slant to the novel, but that is life – no? Joshua Henkin has included a political perspective regarding the war in Iraq. Is this his perspective or is it the perspective of the characters? His characters were so perfectly written it would be impossible to believe that they felt otherwise.
What is important about The World Without You is the truth of the family. Joshua Henkin has written the characters in such a clear manner that I felt that I knew them – they were my neighbors, my friends, my classmates. I could not put the book down, and did not want it to end. Very rarely is that the case.
There are no car chases, murders, or other big events to draw the narrative forward because the “big event” happened a year ago when Leo was murdered. The after effects shine here. The World Without You is about how life happens and goes on even when you do not particularly want it to.
A beautiful book – thank you Joshua.