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With or Without You: Book summary and reviews of With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt

With or Without You

A Novel

by Caroline Leavitt

With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt X
With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2020
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

"With or Without You is a moving novel about twists of fate, the shifting terrain of love, and coming into your own. With tenderness and incisive insight, Leavitt spotlights a woman's unexpected journey towards her art." —Madeline Miller, author of Circe

After almost twenty years together, Stella and Simon are starting to run into problems. An up-and-coming rock musician when they first met, Simon has been clinging to dreams of fame even as the possibility of it has grown dimmer, and now that his band might finally be on the brink again, he wants to go on the road, leaving Stella behind. But when she falls into a coma on the eve of his departure, he has to make a choice between stardom and his wife—and when she wakes a different person, with an incredible artistic talent of her own, the two of them must examine what it is that they really want.

Unapologetically honest and intimately written, With or Without You is a contemporary story of what happens to relationships as the people in them change, whether slowly or in one cataclysmic swoop.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"One character's coma is only the first surprise in this satisfying story of middle-aged love." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"This is a highly readable exploration of the fluid nature of relationships and redemptive power of self-reflection." - Publishers Weekly

"A wonderful novel about life as mess and disappointment, life as catastrophe and regret, but also life as transformation and resilience. Leavitt's characters are great company, and watching them find a way forward in their suddenly altered world is a joy. Deeply engaging, tense but hopeful, and completely recommended." - Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

 "With or Without You is a compulsively readable novel of artistic ambition and the various betrayals lovers and friends both endure and inflict on each other. It also asks fascinating questions about the stability of the self and our capacity—perhaps even our secret desire?—to reinvent ourselves. Caroline Leavitt is a born storyteller, and this is one knockout of a story." - Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men

"Caroline Leavitt has accomplished in With or Without You the hardest but most profound task of the novelist: she makes us not only understand but care about characters as flawed as ourselves.  Stella, Simon, and Libby straddle the ravine between hip urbanity and soulful vulnerability—each achieving a redemption that gives us hope that we might too." - Lisa Gornick, author of The Peacock Feast

"With or Without You is a moving novel about twists of fate, the shifting terrain of love, and coming into your own. With tenderness and incisive insight, Leavitt spotlights a woman's unexpected journey towards her art." - Madeline Miller, New York Times bestselling author of Circe

"What a compelling, wonderful read this book is. With or Without You asks the great question of what happens to a long-loving couple if one of them changes utterly. This novel gives us high drama while keeping the fairest possible view of the messy lives of these characters. Another triumph for Caroline Leavitt." - Joan Silber, bestselling author of Improvement
 
"Caroline Leavitt's new novel With or Without You seduced me instantly and held my heart from the first page to the last. Like Elena Ferrante's raw and intimate explorations into human relationships, this novel will make you laugh, cry, yell, and possibly more. At the heart of the story is the art of a woman's life, pulsing with beauty, desire, loss, never-ending change, and the grit it takes to keep going." - Lidia Yuknavitch, bestselling author of The Book of Joan

"It was if I were falling in love: flushed, fascinated, filled with hope, fear and joy. Leavitt's exploration of the many ways in which we change over the course of a lifetime—and how we keep or lose those we love throughout these mutations—is compassionate, profound and moving. Beyond being utterly captivated, I felt like I had grown wiser and more humane after reading this beautiful novel." - Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation

"In With or Without You, Caroline Leavitt once again explores disaster's aftermath and its affect on the lives of ordinary people tethered by love and shared history.  What makes this novel so poignant, and also makes it feel so true, is that there is no going back.  There is only now, the newness of their altered realities and the courage to continue." - Helen Schulman, bestselling author of This Beautiful Life and Come with Me

"This fresh, engaging, intimate tale of love and identity subverts the reader's expectations again and again. Caroline Leavitt refuses to take one clichéd turn. A complete original, an absolute delight." - Janet Fitch, author of Chimes of a Lost Cathedral and White Oleander

"After all of their lives are irrevocably altered by a single tragic incident, Stella, Simon, and Libby—the major characters in Caroline Leavitt's compelling, deeply moving new novel—are forced to make complex choices between freedom and responsibility, love and loyalty. Leavitt depicts her characters without judgment, and by doing so compels readers to ask themselves what they might do in such difficult moments." - Ron Rash, author of The Risen      

The information about With or Without You shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Di Wolter

Started late one night and read all the way through!
I really enjoyed this book and once I opened it, I read it straight through to the end. I loved all of the characters with all their strengths and challenges and dreams, and how it addressed the complexity of relationships that begin, grow, change based on life's goals and dreams. I definitely recommend this as a not-too-heavy summer read!

Linda Z. (Melville, NY)

Change and Chance
WOW! Caroline Leavitt, author of "With or Without You" has written a captivating, intense, emotional, memorable, intriguing, and poignant story. The genres for this novel are Domestic Fiction, Dramatic Fiction, Women's Fiction with a dash of romance, and suspense. The timeline for this story is set in the present and goes to the past and future when it pertains to the characters or events.  Caroline Leavitt describes her dramatic characters as complicated, complex, flawed, dysfunctional, and each carries their own set of problems. I love the way Caroline Leavitt vividly describes her characters, events, scenery, and plot. Despite twists and turns, everything concludes in a well-planned story that keeps the reader's attention.

Stella, a nurse, and Simon,  a musician have been together as a couple for twenty years. Their relationship is starting to show signs of change. Simon has an opportunity to go on the road and be a musician for a few days. This could be an opportunity for Simon to have his fame and glory as in the earlier days. Stella has a cold and is trying to communicate what she wants. They talk and drink, and Stella passes out. Simon gets her to the hospital where Stella goes into a coma.

Simon has to decide whether to go on the road or stay with Stella. When Stella comes out of her coma, everything is different. Stella has problems remembering many things but has a compulsion and obsession to draw. She becomes very artistic, which she wasn't before. The pictures that Stella draws and paints, get better and better, and it almost is like Stella is seeing what is inside the person she is painting.

I appreciate that the author discusses the importance of family, friends, communication, self-worth, and self-growth. She also talks about the importance of love, respect, second chances, forgiveness, and hope. I would highly recommend this thought-provoking story.

Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)

Choices
Excellent read. A person changes through many extenuating circumstances. Due to brain damage main character becomes an artist who can see people as they really are. She also sees how she is and all the people around her are. Good read right to the end.

Susan T. (Bahama, NC)

Absolutely loved this book
I loved this book so much I spent the entire day reading until I finished it. The story was so compelling. I think anyone who has experienced being in a relationship where one or both people change for whatever reason would be able to relate to this book. The same holds true for anyone with complicated relationships with their parents. I really loved that it wasn't some kind of morality story, but rather the author treated the characters as real people with all their flaws and without judgement. I also liked how each character came to a new understanding of their parents during the story. I can't wait to go read something else Caroline Leavitt has written!

Mary L. (Greeley, CO)

Complex characters one comes to love
Characters, who at may first appear unsympathetic, change and grow as the novel progresses, both in surprising and complex ways. That depth depicts the way we humans can both complicate and untangle our lives. As life circumstances and crises bring complications for these characters, life also opens new opportunities for both relational and personal growth. The relationships may not turn out the way a reader may hope, yet hope resonates throughout the novel, including at the end. Reading the novel may even give a reader an opportunity to examine his or her own personal growth and relationships, past and present.

Susan H. (Mount Kisco, NY)

she does it again!
i really like leavitt's books - the characters are real people with real life issues. and that is again true here. it is a perfect way to spend quarantine .

...30 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Caroline Leavitt Author Biography

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World, Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You, Girls In Trouble, Coming Back To Me, Living Other Lives, Into Thin Air, Family, Jealousies, Lifelines, Meeting Rozzy Halfway. Various titles were optioned for film, translated into different languages, and condensed in magazines.

Her many essays, stories, book reviews and articles have appeared in Salon, Psychology Today, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, The New York Times Modern Love, Publisher's Weekly, People, Real Simple, New York Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and numerous anthologies. She won First Prize in Redbook Magazine's Young Writers Contest for her short story, "Meeting Rozzy Halfway," which...

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