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16 / 30 books. 53% done!

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Saturday, November 14, 2020

With Or Without You? I'll Take Without.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For the twenty years Stella Davison has been with her husband, Simon, she's consistently put her dreams on hold in order to help him pursue his.  While his band has had some success over the years, Simon has never achieved the fame and fortune he craves.  Stella's done with the dying dream.  At 42, she's desperate to start the family she's put off having because of Simon's single-minded pursuit of celebrity.  Already at odds, Stella and Simon may not be able to survive as their rapidly diverging needs and wants slowly destroy their marriage.

On the night before Simon plans to board a plane for L.A. for what he's sure is going to be his big break, Stella accidentally overdoses, putting herself in a coma.  Staying by his wife's side means Simon misses out on a major opportunity.  He also becomes close to Stella's best friend, Libby.  When Stella awakens after two months, everything has changed.  Not only has she been betrayed by the two people she loves most, but she's also developed a surprising new talent for portraiture.  Can Stella figure out how to get along in her strange, new world?  Does she want to go back to her old life?  Or is it finally time to break out and forge her own path?

I'm not sure what to say about With Or Without You by Caroline Leavitt.  My feelings about the novel are about as ambivalent as its title.  Actually, I veer more toward without since I just didn't love this one.  The book has no real plot, so its focus is really on the characters.  I can't say I loved any of the three people at its center, although there were times in the novel when I both liked and loathed all of them.  They feel like real people, authentic in their weakness and vulnerability.  They do all experience growth in the novel, which adds to their humanness.  Because With Or Without You is basically plotless, it feels long and unfocused, even downright dull in places.  So, while I appreciated the story's insights on aging, forgiveness, letting go, selfishness, etc., overall, With Or Without You was just an average read for me.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, sexual content, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of With Or Without You from the generous folks at Algonquin Books.  Thank you!


  1. Sounds both plotless and pointless. I'll be passing on this one.

  2. I sometimes enjoy books that are really nothing more than extended character-sketches, but they have to be some really, really interesting characters for that to happen. Doesn't sound like the case here.


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