Wednesday, May 9, 2012
LIVES REDEFINED BY THE ABSENCE OF ONE -- A REVIEW
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.
The characters sprang to life on the pages for me, and my emotions about them felt like those I would have for real people, including the irritations that are part of normal interactions. I found Noelle and her spouse quite self-righteous and annoying, but as time passed, I came to see their pain and vulnerabilities. Lily's anger softened as she shared some of her feelings.
But the onslaught of feelings, along with a few secrets, unleashed during the sojourn at the summer cottage, begins to change how each of them sees one another and how they now see the future.
The World Without You: A Novel lost a bit of momentum for me in the mid-section, resulting in some difficulty in continuing to connect with the story; however, toward the end, I was once again fully engaged and enjoying the characters and their lives. Four stars.