Joshua Henkin

"Few American novelists, living or dead, have ever been as good as Henkin at drawing people"--D.G. Myers, Commentary Magazine

Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels SWIMMING ACROSS THE HUDSON, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book; MATRIMONY, a New York Times Notable Book; and THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU, which was named an Editors' Choice Book by The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune and was the winner of the 2012 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish American Fiction and a finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award. His short stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in Best American Short Stories, and broadcast on NPR's "Selected Shorts." His reviews and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. He directs the MFA program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College.

News

Book Case TV Interview

Praise for The World Without You

“Insightful … poignant and … pointed. Henkin move[s] elegantly from one perspective to another.... Although the cast is large you get to know them deeply, like real people…. Henkin brings them to a moving resolution that feels authentically possible. The World Without You shows how loss forces people to reconceive of themselves, a painful but necessary transformation.”

--Malena Watrous, The New York Times Book Review

"Like a more bittersweet version of Jonathan Tropper’s THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU or a less chilly variation on Jonathan Franzen’s THE CORRECTIONS, Henkin (MATRIMONY) tenderly explores family dynamics in this novel about the ties that bind, and even lacerate. One year after the death of their kidnapped journalist son, Leo, in Iraq, David and Marilyn Frankel, non-practicing Jews, call their entire mishpocha to their summer home in the Berkshires to attend his memorial service: Clarissa and her husband, Nathaniel, who, after years of putting off parenthood, are having a difficult time getting pregnant; Lily, a D.C. lawyer who shows up without Malcolm, her restaurateur boyfriend of 10 years; Noelle, an Orthodox Jew who arrives from Jerusalem with her husband, Amram, and their four children; and Thisbe, Leo’s widow, a grad student who flies in from Berkeley with their three-year-old son, Calder. Over the course of the Fourth of July holiday, David and Marilyn will make a stunning announcement; Thisbe will reveal a secret; a game of Celebrity will cause Amram to drive off into the night; Leo will be remembered; and someone will pee on the carpet. The author has created an empathetic cast of characters that the reader will love spending time with, even as they behave like fools and hurt one another. An intelligently written novel that works as a summer read and for any other time of the year."

--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A keenly observant, compassionate novel.... I dutifully acknowledge Leo Tolstoy's famous Anna Karenina chestnut about the distinctive qualities of each unhappy family. But I also propose that it's damn difficult to make the basic unhappy-family novel distinctly one's own. Henkin does so with a one-two combination of strengths: psychological empathy for his realistic characters, and an expository modesty that draws attention away from the skilled writing itself — no showy sentences here, no cadenza-like phrasing — in order to focus, with great care, on the subtleties and complications of familial love. There's room, over the course of the Frankels' three-day gathering, for the novelist (who teaches graduate-level writing at Brooklyn College and whose last book, Matrimony, was similarly menschy) to consider the pain of infertility, the strictures of Orthodox Judaism, the competitiveness of academic life, the strategies of tennis, and the sources of female teenage sexual compulsion. Tenderness spills from these pages — so much so that the reader misses Leo too."

--Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"The family of Leo Frankel, a young war correspondent, has gathered in the Berkshires to mark the one-year anniversary of his death in Iraq. In this densely detailed and touching portrait, Henkin shows how the loss eats away at Leo's wife, parents and sisters, testing beliefs and loyalties they've taken for granted. Intense and self-questioning, none of them thinks in terms of 'closure.' But you finish the book hoping these complicated, appealing people will find a way forward."

Helen Rogan, People Magazine

"An immeasurably moving masterpiece that tracks the intricate threads connecting children to parents, sisters to brothers, wives to husbands. To say I 'cared' about these characters would be to hugely understate their consuming effect on me."

--Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers

"Blazingly alive.... Henkin has already proven his mastery at characterization with his previous novel 'Matrimony,' and here he leisurely peels his characters' layers to uncover revelations about each one in small, perfect, shocks.... He grounds his novel in both time and place, creating a living, breathing world that is so indelible we can taste the white gazpacho in the Frankels' Upper West Side kitchen as well as the noodle kugel Noelle eats in Jerusalem, even as we smell the grasses in their country home, 'a Massachusetts outpost of the Upper West Side.' Henkin renders all the details, from the tony shops to the tennis courts, exactly right, and he also gets at the subtle class distinctions that go along with the territories.... Gorgeously written, and as beautifully detailed as a tapestry, Henkin delicately probes what these family members mean to one another.... We come to know and deeply care about each one of them. In the end, we're left waiting to see what comes next, but the anticipation is as compassionate, intelligent, and shining as this novel itself."

--Caroline Leavitt, The Boston Globe

“Joshua Henkin invites readers to Edith Wharton's New England in his wonderful novel "The World Without You," which is set on a July 4 weekend but can be enjoyed during any season at all…. Over the course of the gathering, the repercussions of loss and grief upend the family's equilibrium. Henkin adroitly dodges the melodrama of family novels and the preachy quality of political novels. He creates characters whom readers care about, even as they can be unkind to one another — and themselves.”

--Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune, Editor’s Choice

"Henkin makes each and every character real to his readers and their individual situations, no matter how ugly or thorny or hopeless, will resonate.... Each Frankel is so undeniably human, so determined to make sense of the unknowable and to control the uncontrollable, that I began to care for each of them, and root for each, and forgive them their foibles, with the hope that they would forgive each other and themselves.... The World Without You is a heart-searing, eye-tearing, and soul-touching novel about loss and resilience, family and individuals, and the enduring connections that bind us together, no matter how awful a wrenching we endure."

--Nina Sankovitch, The Huffington Post

“Henkin creates a powerful sense of each individual's hopes, fears and simmering aggravations, set against the evocative landscape of childhood summers. . . . [He] steers us thoughtfully through three days of missed connections, lukewarm marital sex, unpredictable arrivals and departures and Berkshire moments. . . . The World Without You gives us a welcome portrait of the repercussions of faraway wars on people who usually consider themselves to be spectators. The most powerful and unexpected effect in this compassionate and beguiling novel is not what it tells us about Leo and his final days, but how much Henkin makes us care about those he has left behind.”

--Jane Ciabattari, NPR Books

“Henkin imbues The World Without You with wisdom, humor, and a clear sense of history. This book is a triumph and an important novel about America."

-Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

"'The World Without You' is less an elegy to a lost son than a tribute to those who remain.... Henkin's prose is as smooth and clear as a morning lake. You want to dip back in for the specificity of detail and feelings evoked: 'It's an hour before the concert, but the traffic is thick with exhaust, with the smell of salami and pate, of macaroni and cheese, pickles, mashed potatoes, and scones. The stuff of summer picnics, Thisbe thinks, recalling weekends with Leo, wandering past Kripalu to Tanglewood, where they would camp out on the lawn while the string musicians held practice.' Like his winsome 2007 novel 'Matrimony,' 'The World Without You' is a study of close relationships, typified by warmth and wit. The characters are sympathetic and flawed, drawn with compassionate strokes. They experience fertility troubles, marital disappointment, awkward mishaps and religious differences, but Henkin's authorial touch is never heavy-handed. Rather, the novel builds tiers of tension that break unexpectedly into dramatic action, like blocks in a Jenga tower.... All of the characters engage in looking backward; each is imbued with rich interior worlds. As a result, the tone is wistful and bittersweet. Their memories recall ordinary threads in the fabric that makes up everyday life--applying calamine lotion to a child before day camp, studying for high school tests, waking up in love in a college dorm room. The poignancy here is that Leo will never again experience these smaller rites, these lesser losses, that impart life--and novels--with meaning.... The world of this book is a generous offering, steadfast in its belief that after grief comes regeneration."

--Jackie Reitzes, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Henkin is a pleasingly old-fashioned novelist who takes his time in exploring his characters’ emotions and their fraught connections to one another. . . . What interests him is the texture of everyday existence and the constantly shifting human relationships embedded in it: the slip of the tongue over a child’s name that stakes a grandmother’s claim, the collective solving of a crossword puzzle that infuriates a slower-witted in-law, a brutally competitive tennis match that unexpectedly reconfigures the family dynamic. Those who have resorted to such passive-aggressive tactics with their own relatives will laugh and wince in recognition at Henkin’s perfectly calibrated measurements of intramural jockeying. . . . Henkin doesn’t maneuver his characters into grand declarations of reconciliation or reassessment. Instead, he gives several of them an engagingly modest mantra that expresses the unpretentious philosophy of his warm-hearted novel: ‘We could try.’”

--Wendy Smith, The Washington Post

"[An] honest and well-paced look at an American family. Point this one out to contemporary fiction fans of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, or the works of Rick Moody, Richard Russo, Philip Roth, and John Updike."

--Library Journal

“The American family in crisis has long represented rich source material for writers, from Hawthorne to Morrison. In his deeply felt new novel, Joshua Henkin offers his contemporary contribution to our growing library of books inspired by this theme. . . . It seems vaguely inappropriate to commend a male author for fashioning a novel around his female characters—after all, women writers imagine male protagonists as a matter of course—but Henkin’s vivid evocation of such distinctive, and often oppositional, female voices is striking, all the same. To Henkin’s credit, his main characters will either infuriate readers or enlist their sympathies. They leap uncensored off the page as powerful and fully realized human beings, rather than types. . . . Henkin is far too honest an observer of the American scene to construct a rosy or uncomplicated outcome for the Frankels. But he doesn’t give up on them, either. . . . Through it all, the novel is permeated with small moments of restored intimacy. There’s a lot of tender feeling here for the American family, on the ropes for sure, but well worth fighting for, Henkin’s heartfelt novel insists.”

--Andrew Furman, The Miami Herald

“A family assembles at its country house for a memorial to a lost son. In the course of the long weekend, old and new tensions—between husbands and wives, between parents and children, and among siblings—bubble to the surface. It could be the plot of a Chekhov play or a Woody Allen movie. But on this classic narrative scaffolding, Joshua Henkin develops a painfully contemporary situation. . . . The skill with which Henkin explores the points of view and personae of his ensemble cast is masterful. From the aging, defeated patriarch to the innocent 3-year-old. . . . Henkin depicts each in terms of his or her response to loss, both its damage and its unfolding trajectory. [The book explores] with subtlety and feeling the meaning of family, both those we are born with and those we choose, those we leave behind and those with whom we soldier on.”

--Marion Winik, Newsday

"Witty, poignant, and heartfelt. The 4th of July will never be the same for me, or for my fellow Americans. I can't imagine a world without Joshua Henkin."

--Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

"Insightful, intelligent, and also wildly entertaining."

Scott Cheshire, Salon

"Marvelous on the solitudes that exist even within the strongest and most compassionate of families, and I love the relentlessness with which it reminds us that our politics will reach its wrecking ball into the lives of even those of us who are most comfortable."

--Jim Shepard, author of You Think That's Bad

“An unexpected death can unite a family—or explode it to bits. In this deeply human novel, it does both. On a July Fourth weekend in 2005, one year after Leo, a journalist, was killed in Iraq, the Frankels gather for a memorial service at their summer place in the Berkshire…. Henkin skillfully portrays the exhausting emotional skirmishes that, surprisingly, help this grieving family survive.”

--Liz Welch, More Magazine

“You can get away with locking yourself on the sun porch with Joshua Henkin’s moving novel The World Without You (Pantheon) by arguing that the stars have all aligned: the story takes place not only on the Fourth of July but at a family’s country house. And the political angle—the youngest son and brother, a journalist named Leo, has been kidnapped and killed in Iraq (shades of Daniel Perl in Pakistan)—is a great conversation starter when you want to get certain hawks you’re related to squawking. Most important, though, Henkin’s story of the closely knit Frankel clan, which ever since Leo’s death has been steadily falling apart . . . is about a family coming together again.”

--Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

"Rich, deep, funny, and wise, The World Without You is a sumptuous layer cake of a novel whose ordinary yet urgent dramas remind us that family is where it all begins. Henkin is a writer of voluminous heart, humanity, and talent."

--Julia Glass, author of The Widower's Tale

"Henkin is masterful at bringing his characters to life. Family members are articulate, engaging, combative, loyal, well educated, successful ... and deeply human.... For readers who enjoy their summer reading infused with summertime, here are Tanglewood concerts overheard, fireflies, skinny-dipping, an intense tennis game, fireworks, jalapeno-lime corn on the cob and white gazpacho. Henkin gets all the details just right. Think 'The Big Chill,' family style."

--Sandee Brawarsky, The Jewish Week

"Each character is developed with such sensitivity and originality that it would be easy to believe that this book was non-fiction. I felt like I knew this family as well as I do my neighbors."

Lori Matthews, Elle Magazine

"The parents, three sisters, and widow of a reporter killed in Iraq reunite in Joshua Henkin's moving novel The World Without You, a story about the volatility of fresh grief and old antagonisms."

Oprah Magazine

"A family gathers to deal with the loss of their son and brother in Iraq in this compelling and insightful novel."

--Readers Digest

“Tolstoy famously declared that ‘every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ The members of the Frankel family seem unhappy enough, in their own individual ways, but it also seems as if happiness has never really been an option for them, as if it were an item that had somehow been left off the menu of life. . . . [The] little details, in fact, the bits and pieces of choice and circumstance, fortune and misfortune, that make up the mosaic of each individual's life, is what this subtle and ingenious novel is about. All the big things are affected by the tiny shifts taking place among the particles that lie beneath them and of which they are composed. . . . Henkin takes no sides in his novel. He simply presents his characters as they are, as they think, as they feel, how they interact and lets it all reveal whatever it may. . . . Deep down, perhaps even unbeknownst to its author, The World Without You may well be a novel of faith. It is certainly a novel for mature readers—those who like fiction providing insight into how people actually live.”

--Frank Wilson, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The Frankel family is one of privilege. . . . They've scattered, geographically and philosophically. Gentile, Jew and non-believer, liberal and conservative, successful and not so much, they share the bonds of family and heartbreak. . . . Henkin juggles this large cast of characters with ease, telling a poignant story while maintaining each unique identity. This is no small trick, as the characters are neither perfect nor perfectly likeable. They are, in the end, a family. They do what families do, which is a complex dance of happy and sad, of distance and intimacy. Each is muddling through as best he and she can, and the heartbreak of the last year has concentrated the essence of each character. In the end, it is that essence, held at each character's core, that keeps the family from spinning out of control.”

--Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; we’ve heard this story before. But in Henkin’s hands, the familiar turns lyrical and meaningful. If you love the work of Julia Glass, take a break and pick up this book.”

--Bethanne Patrick, Book Riot

“When conventionalists claim, 'They don't write novels like that anymore,' this is the sort of novel they mean. Yet the very familiarity and durability of the setup suggests that the traditional novel remains very much alive and healthy as well, if the narrative momentum and depth of character here are proof of vitality. . . . A novel that satisfies all expectations.”

—Kirkus (starred review)

“The World Without You details the emotionally complex homecoming of the estranged Frankel family, an event prompted by a memorial service in honor of the recently deceased Leo Frankel—a young journalist whose untimely and public death in the Iraq War has catapulted the Frankels to the status of reluctant national celebrities. What impressed me about the novel was that Henkin never uses the plot of the novel to make partisan statements on the political state of the US. Rather, he dedicates himself to the cause of realism, creating an impartial world which doesn’t reduce itself to a single meaning or message.”

--Jeffrey Grunthaner, Bomb Magazine

“Much of [this] novel’s pleasure comes from getting to know each member of the family. Few American novelists, living or dead, have ever been as good as Henkin at drawing people. The World Without You weaves from one Frankel to another, effortlessly filling in backstories, stitching past to present, exposing old wounds and lingering tensions. It is a tribute to Henkin’s skill that the narrative never flags. The action of the book is the characterization…. With great subtlety [Henkin] reveals that the Frankels’ grief over Leo, as deep and sincere as it is, is not the source of the family’s dysfunction…. Henkin is not one of the Frankels; he has no stake in the outcome of their disagreements…. He has only a good deal of affection for them, and a good deal of pity, and the confidence that his reader will come to feel about them much as he does. About this, he is right.”

--D.G. Meyers, Commentary Magazine

"Henkin ably illustrates the complexity of family ties... [He] delves deep into the psyches of each character ... [and his] book is a realistic and absorbing portrayal of grief and our reactions to it.... You won't be able to stop reading about [these characters]."

--Rebecca Shapiro, BookPage

“There’s nothing like a novel set in the recent past to remind you of how quickly things change. In 2005, if a novelist had published a book that hinged on the murder of a Jewish American journalist by Islamic terrorists in Iraq, it would have been read as a political novel, a war novel, a post-9/11 novel—and, of course, a roman a clef about Daniel Pearl, who died in 2002 in Pakistan. Seven years later, Joshua Henkin has published just such a book in The World Without You, which is set in 2005 on the anniversary of the murder of Leo Frankel, whose story closely mirrors Pearl’s. . . . Yet the passage of time has made it possible for Henkin to turn this headline-news premise into a book that is quiet, inward-turning, and largely apolitical. Leo Frankel’s death is alluded to but never actually described; the particular reasons for his murder matter less than the void it has left in the lives of his family. . . . The distance from Lenox to Baghdad is so immense that what happens to Leo cannot really be admitted into the novel, or into the Frankels’ lives. . . . On the spectrum of American Jewish novelists at work today, [Henkin] is closest to the conventional realism of Allegra Goodman—a style that can look rather sedate next to more formally and thematically adventurous contemporaries like Jonathan Safran Foer and Joshua Cohen. He does not hurry his characters forward with events because he is more interested in the slowly ramifying details of their inner lives. . . . The province of fiction, he suggests, is not what happens in the world but what happens in the family, that miniature world in which all our primal experiences take place. . . . The World Without You draws the reader into those lives quietly but seductively and confirms that Henkin is a novelist of distinguished gifts.”

--Adam Kirsch, Tablet

“[A] poignant and moving novel…. What sets [it] apart is the way it so deftly plumbs each character’s internal landscape while managing to tell a compelling story…. Henkin is a polished writer with an eye for detail (“Her eyes are the green of freshly sliced cucumber”), but where he really shines is in how he tenderly reveals each character’s complex personality, layer by layer…. [He] captures what grief means, day after day. So it is with ‘The World Without You.’ It’s a slice of life of a very real family grappling with something bigger than them. It’s also a moving story and a good read, and, from start to finish, deeply honest.”

--Abigail Pickus, The Times of Israel

“The World Without You deals with a large, complicated Jewish family and demonstrates again that [Henkin] has considerable talent…. Readers of Henkin’s novels and numerous short stories will come to his work with high expectations, and they will not be disappointed... What in other hands might have been a caricature, Henkin turns into a lively multidimensional portrait. 

Henkin is especially good at capturing telling details….. [He is] a writer fully in control of his craft and well worth reading.” 


Sanford Pinsker, Hadassah Magazine

“Henkin is a master at letting his characters emerge in subtle but captivating ways. Especially interesting are Noelle and her husband, also an American-born Jew, who have moved to Israel to become Orthodox Jews…. Noelle and Amram have four young sons, and their crackling drama as a couple gives the house and the novel a bursting, crowded feeling…. There is an edge of humor in their exchanges, but not only humor: depth and patience as well…. Henkin’s portrayals of sibling rivalry and resentment are apt and engaging…. This is a deeply woven and affecting novel about grief and its effects on the lives going forward.”

--Wingate Packard, The Seattle Times

"Joshua Henkin is the master of the post-modern domestic novel.... Virginia Woolf modernized and deepened the genre with Mrs. Dalloway. Henkin has gone a step further by folding politics into his new novel.... This is a novel of brilliant insinuation, portraying the complex interiors of its characters and the worlds they inhabit.... The World Without You, Henkin’s third book, establishes him as an important American novelist."

--Judy Bolston-Fasman, The Jerusalem Report

"Movingly rendered ... satisfyingly cathartic.... Henkin is a skillful writer, alternately witty and moving."

--Anne Trubek, The Jewish Review of Books

“‘This past year has been awful,’ Marilyn Frankel reminds her husband, three daughters, daughter-in-law, sons-in-law and grandchildren at the beginning of ‘The World Without You,’ Joshua Henkin’s intimate and insightful new novel…. Thrown together for the ‘holiday’ weekend, they will revisit and revive generational resentments, sibling rivalries and marital feuds and learn some lessons, old and new, about the strength of family ties.”

--Glenn C. Altschuler, The San Francisco Chronicle

"Given that it's set against the backdrop of both the Iraq War and the ongoing situation in Israel, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Joshua Henkin's latest novel, The World Without You, is a political thriller.... Instead, Henkin uses this as a starting point for a tale of family, loyalty, and the ways the grief can both unite us and tear us apart.... The world the Frankels inhabit is one we've seen before in fiction, but Henkin's treatment of it is so deft that he succeeds in imagining it anew. Despite its political backdrop, The World Without You is a novel built upon its characters, and in the Frankels he draws upon a diverse--yet connected--set of new creations. From Noelle--the born-again Orthodox Jew, who spent her teen years sleeping with every boy in town--to imposing matriarch Gretchen, this is a novel that employs a true ensemble cast to keep us hooked.

--Dan Coxon, CultureMob

"The action of 'The World Without You' takes place over the weekend of [Leo Frankel's] unveiling, in 2005, and while Leo is, in some ways, at the center of this contemplative novel, it's his absence rather than his presence that asserts itself.... Not only are we privy to the intimate push and pull of longtime spouses and lovers, but pairings between other characters lead to unexpected insights.... The pace of 'The World Without You' is slow and deliberate. Each conversation, each passing hour, takes on the weight of something much larger."

--Beth Schwartzapfel, The Jewish Daily Forward

"Henkin has achieved something uncommon with 'The World Without You': a 21st-century novel that deals with contemporary politics in a sensitive and dignified way without being cynical, bombastic or melodramatic. Moreover, it is an old-fashioned story about the love, happiness, tension and anger that can inform family relationships. Its backdrop is current, but its focus--the bonds and rifts that make family life meaningful--is timeless."

--Shana Rosenblatt Mauer, English-Language Haaretz

"In The World Without You Joshua Henkin covers the perilous and rocky terrain of the Frankels, who gather at their summer home in the Berkshires on the Fourth of July.... The reader ends up loving each and every one of them.... Henkin navigates treacherous shoals and brings the reader to shore, stabilizing the craft that is a family without a soppy-sweet ending."

Valerie Ryan, Shelf Awareness

"How does a writer convey grief without mining overly familiar territory and without succumbing to the melodramatic? Joshua Henkin answers these questions deftly in his third novel, The World Without You.... Henkin manages to tell the story of a moment, of this family coming together, while also telling us about their histories and wounds--how they have found their way to the present.... As the novel unfolds, you begin to realize how each character is able to see the people around them for who they really are. That honesty, even when it isn't fully expressed, only pulls you deeper into the Frankels' world. The World Without You tackles difficult issues, but a sense of hope resonates throughout, perhaps because each member of the Frankel family is, in their own way, both pragmatic and foolish. This odd combination makes all things possible and allows the novel to end on a note of hope that is unexpected."

--Roxane Gay, The Los Angeles Review of Books

"The literati are already buzzing about Joshua Henkin's new novel, The World Without You."

--Jonathan Kirsch, The Los Angeles Jewish Journal

"Whether or not you think of the Berkshires as New York City's sixth borough as some wags do, you have no doubt sat next to a family like the Frankels on the lawn at Tanglewood or stood on line with them at Guido's.... This well-wrought, carefully detailed saga chronicles a crisis in the lives of Marilyn and David, who have been summering in Lenox for 40 years, and their four adult children as they gather for the 4th of July weekend in 2005."

--Rural Intelligence

“Some plots are guaranteed emotional powerhouses. If you want to put a lump in your readers’ throats and keep it there throughout your novel, you might want to consider killing an only son, or announcing the unraveling of a long marriage, or explore the dynamics of sibling relationships that are fraught with long-festering conflicts…. But to really let your readers have it, combine all three. That’s what Joshua Henkin has done in his latest novel, The World Without You…. Henkin sets up everyone’s dilemmas so well that the undercurrent of tension in each scene is often unbearable…. To create this many characters and give each one a distinct personality isn’t easy. That Henkin manages to pull off this formidable narrative challenge is impressive…. The World Without You is a generous work of literature.”

--Michael Magras, Bookreporter

"In 'The World Without You' ... Henkin inhabits each character with ease and vibrancy, hopping from one point of view to the other skillfully and rapidly. Nothing is rehashed; the progress of a scene or a series of conversations is never broken up by this transfer of perspective. The writing is spare and particular, only heavy with details, like liberal bumper stickers, which the characters can comment on and argue about.... 'The World Without You' may seem, in its characterization of a family dealing with their journalist brother's execution, to reference explicitly certain real-life events. But Henkin's claim that the process of novel-writing simply guided the story to a relatively similar set of circumstances reveals his innately discerning touch, which guides his characters as well, and their thoughts resonate with personal, communal, and national significance, all at once."

--Peter Enzinna, New York Daily News

"Henkin excels at portraying characters from a variety of backgrounds and at various stages of life.... As the novel progresses, [he] opens a window onto the family’s immutable grief, and somehow, all the characters begin in their own ways to move forward with their lives."

--Beth Kissileff, The Jerusalem Post

"The World Without You ... [does] a brilliant job showing just how complex and fascinating [family] relationships can be.... What makes Henkin's work so wonderful is that he successfully places readers in his characters' minds. He shows just how complex each person is so that, even when you dislike a character, it's impossible to dismiss their concerns.... Ranks as one of this year's best novels."

--Rachel Esserman, The Reporter Group

"Henkin's characters, the Frankels--think Salinger's Glass family...--spend the plot over a three-day period ... leading up to the fourth of July.... The novel resembles, in some parts, Richard Ford's luminescent novel The Sportswriter, which takes place on a three-day Easter weekend and also revolves around the death of an absent son and the resulting turmoil that death wreaks on a family.... Henkin, for his part, does a wonderful job of portraying Noelle's real struggle to stay relevant, and at the same time to latch on to something that makes her feel human, that makes her feel important, despite her dearth of academic credentials and book smarts.... It is touches like this that make the novel real, and that ultimately imbue it with the meaning and character that make it powerful."

Bezalel Stern, The Rumpus

"Haunting and compulsively readable.... Henkin creates an extraordinarily believable family."

--Phyllis Braun, Arizona Jewish Post

"Henkin writes so well it feels like the reader is eavesdropping on the characters. The dinner table scenes are particularly poignant. Anyone who has been at a family dinner (and who hasn't?) can relate to the feelings each character has, and the family dynamic that is on exhibit.... [Henkin's] insight into what it means to be an outsider joining a large family is particularly sensitive and acute."

Diane Larue, The Citizen

"A beautifully written novel about what happens to a family when one of its members dies.... An engrossing read."

--Simone Ellin, Baltimore Jewish Times

"The World Without You is a soul-searching meditation on the inner-workings of family.... Between meeting the three remaining siblings, their children and partners, and jumping straight into their various arguments and alliances--Noelle, suddenly an Orthodox Jew in Israel; Clarissa, finally deciding to start a family and becoming 'a cautionary tale' of failed fertility; Lily, not married and not talking about it; widow Thisbe, secretly moving on; and finally Mom and Dad's surprise announcement--there's no chance you'll find this family anything but utterly engaging, and often embarrassingly familiar.... You'll feel like a part of the family after reading [this] novel."

--Alison Peters, East Bay Express

"Henkin's sly observations coupled with his quick wit and crackling dialogue make the family come alive. [He] has a bead on upper middle class New Yorkers. He also has a bead on what it means to produce a good novel."

--Vicki Cabot, Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

"Every once in a while, a novel comes along that is so close to perfect that when you read that last sentence and, with a sigh, close the book, you find that you must eschew reading anything else for awhile.... Joshua Henkin has penned such a novel in The World Without You.... What Henkin has managed to do is create wholly realized characters and entirely believable lives ... husbands and attendant men who are as intriguing and complex as the women."

--Pam Spence, Ohio Jewish Chronicle

"[Henkin] brings considerable insight and sensitivity to dramatizing the inner lives of a large cast of carefully etched characters. It is by far his best and most thought provoking narrative so far.... [His] portrait of a family a year after a catastrophe is beautifully drawn, each character's back story and present ringing true down to the smallest detail."

Susan Miron, The Arts Fuse

"The World Without You captures the sense of dislocation one feels upon returning home.... It's a sensitive portrait of a family, the intimacies and abrasions of household life. With wry humor and a compassionate gaze, Henkin is questioning inheritance: what do we do with what we're given?"

--Image Journal

"The most exciting account of a tennis match that I’ve ever read takes place in the pages of The World Without You.... [a] great breakout novel.

--Dennis Haritou, Three Guys One Book

"A good novel always delivers the satisfaction of an absorbing story, well told, peopled by believable characters.... [The World Without You] delivers especially well on the promise.... Notwithstanding the dark event at the story's center and the hole it leaves in the Frankel family, author Joshua Henkin is gentle with his characters and the story he tells is far from mordant. And, mercifully, it's not about 'closure.'"

--Gila Wertheimer, Chicago Jewish Star

"[Henkin] has the knack of placing his characters into the contemporary political and social milieus of their time without allowing the politics to overwhelm the narrative, but to beautifully inform it.... This beautifully written novel will provoke discussion and self-examination among its readers."

--Andrea Kempf, The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

"Sometimes in sports, announcers or writers refer to a player or a team as putting on a clinic whether in scoring, passing, defense, or tenacity.... For some reason, this description comes to mind when I think of how to describe Joshua Henkin's beautiful new book, 'The World Without You'.... The book [is] a quiet, subtle stunner.... I really cannot think of any writer of Jewish descent in America doing something similar."

Joe Winkler, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"[A] fine novel.... The complexities of each family member are .... skillfully presented."

--Morton I. Teicher, The American Jewish World

"Henkin--sympathetically and with humor--lays out every family member's inner conflicts, grudges, misgivings, self-doubts, fears, and sadnesses, as well as their hopes and happinesses.... Readers will take away from [this book] a reminder of the immense power of love.... The World Without You is an extremely well-written book and a very engaging read. Much happens over the weekend and you'll miss the Frankels when it's over."

--Cynthia Ramsay, The Jewish Independent

Testimony from Independent Booksellers

"The World Without You is a compassionate, first-rate novel that shines a bold light on the modern family. Henkin opens the door to the complicated Frankel family, grieving the loss of Leo, a brother, son, husband and father who was killed on assignment in Iraq a year ago. The characters are remarkably real, and your heart breaks for the pain they are all going through. Although they are together for Leo's memorial, they are all so very alone in their bereavement. How this can still be one of the most hopeful books I've read in a long time is a truly impressive feat. I will recommend this book to anyone who has a heart."

Jessilynn Norcross, McLean and Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

"A family returns to New England from California, New York and Israel on the anniversary of the death of their son/brother/husband/father, a journalist who was killed in Iraq. With an astonishing and apparently effortless grasp of the details of time, place, religion and politics, Henkin draws the reader into the family, into their very hearts and souls. And these are people with good hearts and troubled souls, forgiving and unforgiving, funny and sad. As the last of them drive off from their summer home you feel yourself standing in the doorway, wishing them all back for a few more days. Bravo Joshua Henkin!"

Mary E. Fellows, Annie Blooms Books , Portland, OR

I loved The World Without You. I am the oldest of five--all daughters--and I could so relate to the angst and competitiveness and love among the siblings Henkin writes about. And their parents and grandmother. Henkin captures the essence of a close-knit family, the clash of cultural Judaism vs. the Orthodox version, and the complications of trying to be separate and part of a loving family structure. I loved the story, the twists and turns and the way it drew me into the lives of that family as I was escaping for a week, from mine."

Gayle Shanks, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ

"The World Without You is an intriguing book full of complex, but honest
characters. Henkin's writing brings out the human aspects of peoples'
struggles within relationships, pulling out each character's emotions in a
touching and realistic way. The depth of this story really drew me in
quickly, and will likely touch many other readers."

Christina Claassen, Village Books. Bellingham, WA

"Families come and families go. Most don't get a chance to choose who they belong to--we love, we envy, we misunderstand. But mostly we carry the history both good and bad. This novel will nudge your heart to reconsider those nearest to us. And make you call your brother."

Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

"A common complaint from readers is: "I'm tired of the bizarre family saga." My guess is that most of them don't really want to consider the ways in which their own families are 'bizarre.' In any case, Henkin has brought readers a family that inspires empathy and understanding. They so easily could be us. The true joy of this novel is that you want to spend time with them. You want to keep going to see what gets resolved and how. Henkin's writing is compact and solid and doesn't interfere with these people who you come to know and enjoy and feel a range of emotions for."

Hans Weyandt, Micawber's Books, St. Paul, MN

"On one July 4th weekend in the Berkshires, a family gathers together to remember the youngest sibling, Leo Frankel, a journalist killed in the line of duty. What they don't know is that the parents are separating, the eldest daughter is having trouble conceiving, the widowed daughter-in-law is dating, and the two younger children, one proudly agnostic and childless, the other an Orthodox Jew in Israel with four sons, have a pile of resentment issues. The result is spirited family dysfunction writ large, albeit gentler than a Franzen, and served with a half sour pickle spear."

Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

"I thoroughly enjoyed The World Without You. I was struck by how Henkin balanced all the family members and presented them as full blooded people with distinct needs and reasons for their behavior. I also loved how as the novel went on we got to see different pairings of characters interact. Henkin takes on an emotional charged subject and deals with it deftly and with great feeling for all of his characters. He really gets to the heart of family dynamics in a very generous and beautiful way. I was sad when the novel ended.

Arsen Kashkashian, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

"Families may not be totally happy or unhappy, but they are certainly always filled with tension and conflict. The Frankel family definitely is as they gather on the one year anniversary of their only son’s death and disputes and misunderstandings that have simmered through the years boil to the surface. Joshua Henkin exquisitely portrays the family dynamic that is profoundly affected by the world’s conflicts yet also reflects them."

Bill Cusumano, Nicola’s Books Ann Arbor, MI

"A young journalist dies in Iraq--another casualty in an ill-fated war. A year later, worn by the war of grief, Leo's family--parents, sisters, nephews, son, and widow--gathers for a family memorial. In Joshua Henkin's deft hands, the gathering becomes a record of human community and isolation. Henkin's third novel is a masterful interweaving of encounters and shifting points of view. It portrays characters caught in the middle of lives already heavy with accrued baggage and leaves us with an ache in the breastbone and a moment of hope."

Helen Sinoradzki, Powell's Books, Portland, OR

"Four generations of a grieving family gather at their Berkshire summer home over the Fourth of July to attend a memorial for the youngest sibling, an adventuresome journalist who was killed covering the war in Iraq. The parents' 42-year marriage is in meltdown, the three remaining sisters are clashing, and the in-laws feel out-lawed, but ultimately, they make peace with their loss and rediscover what it means to be family. A smart, wonderful summer read by the author of Matrimony."

Margie White, Just the Bookstore, Glen Ellyn, IL

“A year after a young journalist Leo Frankel is killed while covering the war in Iraq, his family gathers at their summer home in the Berkshires for a memorial service. This reunion is told from the perspectives of Leo’s surviving family members: his mother and father, whose crumbling marriage is a casualty of Leo’s death; Thisbe, his young widow, who feels guilty over a new romantic involvement; his sister Lily, who introduced Thisbe to her new lover; another sister, Noelle, a convert to Orthodox Judaism; and Clarissa, the oldest sister, whose desire to become pregnant has become obsessive since Leo’s death. Henkin’s sympathy for his characters is remarkable, as is his ability to capture the complexity and nuance in family relationships — shifting alliances, old resentments, persistent family myths, and most enduring of all, love.”

Ashley Montague, Pennsylvania Book Center, Philadelphia, PA
Powered By LiveBio