THE AUTHOR: Joshua Henkin
This is the story of the David Frankel Family and a tragic event which drastically changes their lives. Marilyn and David Frankel, the parents, and their entire family are Jewish. They have four children — three girls and one boy. All have wonderful memories of their childhoods, but each is now an adult and living his or her own life.
Clarissa, the eldest child, is married to Nathaniel. Noelle, the most rebellious one, has become an Orthodox Jew and lives in Jerusalem with Amram and their four boys. Lily lives in Washington, D.C., and her significant other is Malcolm, who is trying to become a restauranteur. And finally Leo, their only son, is married to Thisbe, and they have a 3-year-old son named Calder.
Everything seems perfect until Leo, a journalist and a risk-taker, goes to Iraq to cover a story about the war, and is killed. Now the family mourns his death and the unbelievable difference his loss has made to them.
The entire family gathers to memorialize Leo’s life on the Fourth of July, a year after they have buried him. You will learn how each of them deals with the loss, and what a difference his absence makes to them.
Marilyn, Leo’s mother, is a medical doctor who is devastated by her son’s death. She and Lily have even campaigned for John Kerry because they blamed George Bush for the war. Marilyn writes op-eds for the newspaper and on her blog, thereby keeping Leo’s memory alive. David, Leo’s father, is a retired teacher with a wealthy mother named Gretchen who makes everyone jump whenever she desires.
As traumatic events either pull couples apart or bring them closer together, the Frankels find that they now fight constantly, and Marilyn has decided that she has had all that she can take. She and David are going to separate and she is moving to New York. The two of them have agreed to wait until the memorial is over to share their break-up with their girls, but in the turmoil of the first evening’s meal, Marilyn breaks down, blurts out the news, and chaos ensues.
Joshua Henkin is an excellent storyteller. He makes us feel as though we are sitting at the Frankel’s dining room table and taking part in their devastation and life-changing decisions. On the back cover of Henkin’s book, Gary Shteyngart, author of “Super Sad True Love Story,” says that the Fourth of July “will never be the same” for him after reading this book, and I feel the same way.The story then takes us through the lives of each of the daughters and of Thisbe, Leo’s widow, and where they are in their struggle to deal with their loss. You will feel the family’s pain and share in the way they all go on and try to survive.
“A World Without You” is not Joshua Henkin’s first book. He has also written “Swimming Across the Hudson,” a Los Angeles Times Notable Book, and “Matrimony,” a New York Times Notable Book. According to his bio his stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in Best American Short Stories and broadcast on NPR’s Selected Shorts. Our author directs the MFA Program in fiction writing at Brooklyn College.
With the deepest regard for Joshua Henkin, whom I had the pleasure to meet in New York, I give this book 3 tiaras. I learned much about Orthodox Judaism and the religion’s do’s and don’t’s. It was a very informative and moving novel.
Buice, a Carrollton resident, writes a weekly book review for the Times-Georgian. anitabook.com