with or without you – domenica ruta

With Or Without You

I was lucky to get this as an Advance Review Copy.

This is an autobiography centring on the author’s younger life and relationship with her mother.

Domenica Ruta grew up in Danvers, a town north of Boston, full of Italian families like her mother’s.  However, her mother (Kathi) is something rather different, which meant that Domenica (or Nikki) had quite a unique upbringing.

Nikki’s parents split up when she was very young, leaving her with a drunken, drug-addicted Kathi.  Despite her problems, Kathi is an intelligent, cultured woman and instilled those passions on Nikki – a comlete juxtaposition to her indifference to her much of the time.

From knowingly turning a blind eye to an uncle who paid her far too much attention, to bemoaning the fact that Nikki wasn’t prepared to present her with a grandchild at age 15, Kathi dabbled in all sorts including drug-dealing and building a failing business into a $million success.

Eventually Domenica battles with her own demons and faces the fact that the only way she can move forward is to cast herself adrift by cutting Kathi off completely.

I loved this book. I loved the style, which was just how a friend would let you into their confidence.  There was something raw and emotional about it.  But at the same time, although Kathi is a formidable character, I never felt that Domenica was ever actually blaming her for things.

Yes, there were always drugs and alcohol around, yes Kathi always encouraged her to have some, but when later she is battling her own addiction, I never felt that she was saying “This was all my mum’s fault – I am entirely blameless”.

It was more a reflection on how experience can shape you, and how when it comes down to it, it has to be your own decision to break out of whatever rut you may find yourself in.  You have to take responsibility for your own life.

There were a lot of laugh out loud funny moments, and there were times where I wanted to shed a tear for the young Nikki, but there was not a single moment that I felt indifferent to the story – and that is some feat for a memoir.

Kathi is described with such warmth and love and yet she is at the same time such a difficult, often ugly character.  I could see her so vividly that it felt that she was being played out on a large screen in front of me.

A moving and inspiring book that I found hard to put down – I’d highly recommend it.

With Or Without You will be published on 26th February 2013.


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