Book-Lover (Dover, NH)
With or Without You Review
I wold compare this memoir to The Glass Castle meets A Million Little Pieces. Raw, heartbreaking, with touches of dry humor to give you, the reader, hope...this book will eat at your heart strings. It is a memoir about an abusive mother/daughter relationship with strong, bold characters who hit rock bottom more than once. It will definitely appeal to adults both young and old and book clubs will devour it. There are so many possibilities for discussion that can reach us all as vulnerable humans.
I believe we should all be open to reading books of this subject matter as it makes us all aware that life is not perfect all the time. The characters in this book did hit rock bottom, but with hope and help, they are survivors.
Thank you for letting me read an advanced copy. It was a privilege I won't forget.
Claire M. (Sarasota, FL)
With or Without You
Domenica Ruta begins her memoir in quite a humorous way - how she and her mother go to smash the windshield of a car and how they want to hear the sound of breaking glass. Nikki is the glass that never quite breaks no matter how abused or self abused she is. Nikki is a writer of talent emerging from the dregs of blue collar abuse in all of its manifestations. It is often said that giving voice to the voiceless is cathartic and while Nikki has written a splendid account of her moving from an object of others abuse, I don't believe she will be free until she faces and writes the story of Uncle Vic, the pedophile. This most heinous of crimes has been lost among the tales of drug and alcohol abuse at the hands of herself and her mother, the way she allows herself to be sexually used and abused. She is phoenix-like, Nikki is, but until the cries become screams over the pedophilia that was condoned by Kathi and other family for debt's sake and low class family cohesion, I don't believe she will be liberated enough to let her talent really soar.
Judy K. (Sunland, CA)
Extremely dark and incredibly real
I started this memoir expecting another Glass Castle. It is not that. The writing is not lyrical but dry; even the bit of humor is dry. Domenica Ruta was raised by a drug addicted mother who did her best to fuel a daughter's addictions. Though her biological father lived close by in their small working class town, he had his own problems and Domenica's need for attention and nurturing developed into a love/hate relationship with this highly toxic mother.
About halfway through the memoir, the balance shifted. The young girl was a reader destined to become a writer. The series of circumstances that led to that destiny, involving both help and more hurt from her mother, finally enabled Domenica to get control of her own life. By the end, I had been reading as fast as I could just to see what would happen next.
With or Without You is most similar to Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? as far as memoirs go. I would not call it redemptive or hopeful but it is powerful and compulsively readable.
Christine B. (st. paul, MN)
With or Without You
I enjoyed this memoir, but of all that I have read I would place this in the middle. Domenica's accounting of her childhood and abuse in some places is left somewhat ambiguous. She also jumps around a lot from one part of her life to another without logical transition. I did like her writing style and find it remarkable that she conquered her childhood demons.
Beverly D. (Palm Harbor, FL)
ANOTHER addiction memoir....
I liked this memoir because of the writing, not the story so I gave it 3 instead of a two. Guess there has been one too many addiction memoirs out there and I don't need to read another one where a gifted kid overcame her surroundings. The writing, however, is clean and precise... sometimes witty and incisive; very readable. I did have an issue with the non-chronological sequences of her story. I will be looking forward to her next effort.
The mother-daughter relationship has been hashed over many times and I believe that there is a very good reason. We are all trying to understand our relationships with our relatives and trying to survive them. Some people have good relationships with their parents but even at the best of times family can drive us crazy. To what degree and what ends to we let them rule our lives after we turn 18? This is a story about coming to terms with what we could not control as children and accepting all that has happened to us. There will always be tensions between mothers and daughters. Yes, that sounds like a story that has been told but everyone's story is different. If you are trying to understand your own relationship with your parents or which way to turn your life you will enjoy this story. If you just want to understand how other people really grew up you will too. I will say there I got lost at a few points when it goes back and forth in time with no leading into where you are going and that was a little frustrating. But I know one thing Ms. Ruta was not alone in the way she was raised and many of us have been too quiet on admitting and overcoming it. If we want a different relationship with our own children then we must face this.
Michele W. (Kiawah Island, SC)
Too high up
Domenica Ruta is a courageous woman, and an admirable fighter for her own life. With or Without You is the story of her first 30 years and her struggle to recover from an abusive childhood. Nikki uses humor and her great intelligence to protect herself when her family, especially her mother, exposes her to harm. Even while she understands her mother's flaws, she is strongly connected to her. She frees herself by stages, and as Nikki's alcoholism grows worse and worse, she inches towards a decision in favor of survival. Nikki's story is sadly familiar. She is an insightful writer who has learned to hide her feelings so thoroughly that she tells her own story from 30,000 feet, as it were. I don't know if Nikki will ever come to terms with her feelings, and if she does, she might just choose to keep it to herself. I would love to hear from her again in this or any other format, but on the basis of her first book, I would especially like to see her try fiction.