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Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

With or Without You: A Memoir

With or Without You - Domenica Ruta

Domenica Ruta’s gripping memoir of growing up as an only child in a rat infested house with a talented but dysfunctional mother doesn’t have a triumphant happy-ever-after finish, but it’s haunting doing-okay-one-day-at-a-time ending has its own kind of power and feels more real. Tolstoy writes that unhappy families are all different, and Ruta has painted a convincing and compelling picture of her family’s particular problems and her struggle to rise above them.


In part her story is so engrossing because it is nuanced by contradictions. Ruta grew up in could have been an idyllic setting by a river, but the water was so polluted with human and industrial waste that it was a health hazard. Her extended family is loving but distracted, allowing an uncle to abuse Ruta, but even that act is complicated by the fact that he really seems smitten with her. Ruta’s mother was popular in younger days but is now an addict who shows her love by sharing oxycontin pills with her daughter. She sticks with jobs just long enough to earn the money to support any and all of Ruta’s interests, even managing to send her to a private school and then college, but begs Ruta to have an out of wedlock baby she can take care of. Eventually Ruta’s mother becomes a successful entrepreneur with enough money to call herself a millionaire, but her lack of judgement causes her to lose it all.


Ruta was a good student, and early on developed the talent for writing that makes this poignant book a joy to read, but like her mother she eventually gets caught in the trap of addiction. I carried With or Without You with me everywhere while I was in the midst of it, reading it every chance I got.