With or Without You review

**I was provided a copy of this novel from netgalley.com in exchange for my review. This book will be published in late March 2013.

With or Without You

With or Without You by Domenica Rutka

Goodreads summary: Domenica Ruta grew up in Danvers, Massachusetts, in a ramshackle, rundown, trash-filled house with her mother, a drug dealer and user who raised Domenica on a steady diet of Oxycontin. Growing up, Domenica knew she didn’t fit in-she was far smarter and worse dressed than everyone else she knew, and she clearly had the most flamboyant mother of anyone in town-but she found solace in writing and reading. As she grew older, though, and as her mother’s behavior grew increasingly outrageous and her home life increasingly untenable, Domenica fled Danvers only to become ensnared by the demons of addiction.

A thoroughly textured and masterfully written book, layered with wildly colorful characters, a biting sense of humor, and penetrating, deeply sympathetic insights, With or Without You finally ends with Domenica’s increasing awareness that she must leave the life she grew up with in order to survive.


My review:

I typically love a good memoir. In fact, many of the books that have stuck with me the longest have been memoirs. This, however, will probably not stick with me much past today.

In order to write a memoir, you should either a.) be famous for something or b.) have some terribly horrific/inspiring/life-altering/ mind-blowing story to tell. Rutka has neither. I still can’t figure out why someone decided her story is any different from the hundreds of kids in my high school, the thousands of people in my town, or the many millions of Americans who have led lives exactly like hers. I can find no discernible reason why one should read this book or care about this story beyond the typical empathy we possess for any normal human being.

All that being said, I could have enjoyed a memoir that was well-told simply because of my love for good writing. I could have forgiven her for being unimportant (because, really, aren’t most of our lives individually unimportant to the masses?) if she’d just told a decent story. So here’s the crux- I really, really disliked the method of delivery of this story too. The first half skips willy-nilly through the 1980’s, 90’s, and well into the 00’s with absolutely NO discernible path or pattern. One minute she’s 3 in the early 80’s, a page later 16 in the 90’s, and then back to fresh-from-the-womb paragraphs after that. It’s maddening in its irregularity. While there were parts that were well-written, even mildly entertaining, overall I found this book whiny, bitchy, and wholly unsympathetic.

Perhaps this book would sit better with me if Rutka were even a decade removed from her tale of addiction and despair. As it sits, however, all I found was someone fresh off her ordeal with no ability to provide perspective on her recovery. It just left me repeating “So what?” and “Who cares” over and over again.


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