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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.
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.
Ann W. (new york, NY)
With or Without You
"I see the awakening of consciousness as a series of spaced flashes, with the intervals between them gradually diminishing until bright blocks of perception are formed, affording memory and a slippery hold." Vladimir Nabokov, 'Speak, Memory'. I had been reading this in memory of a dear friend who died in her sleep in late September. His language is sensual, lush and inviting. I want to look at butterflies and let me senses evoke memories.
Vicki O. (Boston, MA)
After finishing rereading 'Speak, Memory' and listening to it as well, I picked up Ruta's lyrical memoir. I wanted my friend. I wanted to read her passages and share my wonder. "We're lonesome. That's all. There isn't a word in the English language more beautiful than lonesome…the whole world could be contained in that single word."
Her book is an elegant and rich evocation of a life lived in all its grandeur; her love, her hate, her anger and what might be termed the full catastrophe. I was delighted to read of her adventure at Nablov's birthplace in St. Petersburg; to be reminded of his dogs. In her memoir, there is compassion, humor, sadness sorrow and self-inflected pain. Ultimately, she creates herself, one step at a time.
As I have been reading it, I have told all my dog waiting friends to read it. I have quoted passages. We need books and stories that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply as the death of a close friend. With or without you does that. After finishing the last pages, I started rereading it.
If you enjoy reading memoirs about dysfunctional families, then this book is for you. The author is both eloquent and honest. Most readers are sure to empathize with the story she weaves about her childhood and toxic relationship with her mother. I appreciate the author's struggle, but the book just didn't grab me.
With or Without You
This is a tough book because it is a very tough true story. I had to pace myself as I read this or the story got to be too much for me. This author wrote about her life which was extremely difficult and with her own struggle with alcohol and self worth. I thought that her writing had the edge of a survivor and clearly despite many set backs, it seems like she is on the right track. I do recommend the book, but it is not for those who like their reality sugar coated.
Suzanne G. (Tucson, AZ)
With or Without You
This memoir left me with an uneasy feeling. It is hard to believe that anyone so strung out, so damaged, so low a self-esteem could write such a tantalizing story, yet alone remember anything about her past 30 years. How in heaven's name was she able to advance herself to the educational level she did, with so much absence that comes with both her real life, and her mind-altering life? I will have to say I liked her style of writing, her words and her strength.