Friday, March 22, 2013

What You're Not Reading Day 1

I have really terrible news; we’ve decided to post a blog every day for the next few months. We are shooting for 100 straight days of book blogging. We will finish these last ten days of March writing about books you aren’t reading but should be. No, not the Bible or Gone Girl, but other books we loved that we know (psychically) you aren’t reading. In fact that’s our new thing: we are book psychics, tell your friends.

See, I know for a fact that you aren’t reading With or Without You by Domenica Ruta. 
It’s okay, I almost missed the chance too, but you can learn from my near catastrophic mistake.

In the United States, over ten million books were published in 2012 (source: absolutely none, I totally made this statistic up), so I get it can be overwhelming (that’s why following a good book blog is important; we highly recommend looking for one, as clearly this isn’t it). Memoirs in particular are over-published so it’s certainly easy to miss a good one, and more importantly it’s too easy to buy a crappy one. I owe our pal Toni H. (trust me she doesn’t want her entire name in print on this blog, it’s too late for Liz and me, but not Toni) a big thank you for passing an ARC to me a few months ago insisting that this memoir was up my alley. I looked at it, saw it said nothing about women in prison on the cover, so I tossed it into the pile of books not about women in prison. After another nudge from Toni I picked it back up and tore through it.

With or Without You is a rough ride. You want more than anything for Ruta’s mother Kathi to get her shit together. Sometimes she comes close. Sometimes she is a loving (ish), protective mother and maybe things are going to be okay. But then inevitably the addiction and dysfunction take over and her mother returns to drugs and alcohol, in fact shares with her daughter. (It’s educational.) This memoir, while certainly devastating, has a couple of laugh out loud passages that only a book about addiction can deliver.  Kathi takes a crow bar to the windshield of an enemy. She swings and swings, and huffs and puffs, but man, the windshield will not break. She manages a crack here and there sure, but there’s no real satisfaction of a completely smashed in crumbled windshield. Finally, totally exhausted, completely embarrassed, she kind of shrugs and gives up as her daughter looks on. Awkward.
Domenica Ruta

With or Without You is riveting and much of that is due to the pace and the truly excellent writing. We’ve heard variations of this story--heart-wrenching memoirs of mothers and daughters. But where most memoirs fall short, and I really do mean most, is the writing. We all think we have a story to tell but if you can’t tell it in an original and eloquent way, it will never be able to sit on a shelf with the likes of The Liars Club, All Over but the Shouting or The Kiss.  Ruta’s memoir will fit quite nicely with those classics. (Liz’s memoir will live in the leaky part of my garage.)

I suspect this book will find its audience and its real life in paperback when book clubs pick it up, much in the same way The Glass Castle did.  I hope so anyway, but if you are like me and haven’t read a truly good memoir in a while and don’t want to wait a year for the paperback, this hardcover is certainly worth the cash.  

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