Monday, November 26, 2012

Rich, Liberal, New Yorkers: A Family in Turmoil: The World Without You by Joshua Henkin

It's the Fourth of July, a year since Leo Frankel, a journalist, was killed in Iraq. Now his family is gathering for the Memorial. It's been a difficult year for everyone. Each family member brings their own trauma. His parents are planning to separate. His sister, Clarisse, is desperately trying to have a baby. Lily is angry at the world and the war that claimed her brother. Noelle, who has become an Orthodox Jew living in Israel with her four sons, is angry with her husband who has been fired again. Thisbe, Leo's wife, plans to move in with her lover, but worries about what the family will think. As the weekend progresses, tension increases. Old resentments are aired, as are memories of Leo, leaving everyone feeling tender and abused.

Henkin's prose is sometime mesmerizing. You actually become part of the family drama. As with real people, the characters can become annoying, irritating and loveable. The characters, particularly the sisters, are so well drawn you feel you know them. I had more trouble with the parents. The book starts with their decision to separate, which sets the tone for the weekend. However, I had trouble with the strength of their motivation. It seemed weak for seventy-year-old people who have been married for forty years, presumably happily.

The characters are strongly liberal, Jewish, and from New York. This may turn some people off. It's a world that many of us don't inhabit. However, dysfunctional families all have many traits in common. This one is not an exception. You are drawn in as you experience their trauma. This is a book you'll enjoy, if you like well-written family dramas.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.