Book Review: With or Without You: A Memoir By: Domenica Ruta

With or Without - Ruta

With or Without You: A Memoir

By Domenica Ruta

My Rating: 4 Stars

If you’ve seen some of my other reviews you’ll know that I love to read memoirs.  With or Without You by Domenica Ruta is going to be one of my all time favorites.  Ruta writes with so much honesty and doesn’t try to sugar-coat the life she was forced to live with her mother Kathi.  Born and raised in Danvers, Massachusetts, a town north of Boston, but most people know it from it’s original name from the 1600’s, Salem Village, where the famous witch trials occurred.  For Ruta, this was all just a story of the past.  Danvers, for Ruta, was a working-class town where she lived in a house filled with trash and people that bring nothing good to a young child.  Ruta’s mother, Kathi, was notorious in Danvers.  A drug addict, sometimes drug dealer, who swung between having loads of money and being on welfare, Kathi, often made Ruta stay home and watch Martin Scorsesi films telling her that it was more important than school.  Ruta’s father Zeke wasn’t present much in her life and when he was, he was consumed with his new family.  Kathi was all Ruta had growing up and the influences on her were massive.  Teaching her about drugs, boys, sex and money, Ruta found herself flailing as an adult never quite achieving the goals she sought.  Not until she reached a point where she was finally able to come to terms with her childhood, her mother, her father and everything in between.

Told in one of the most haunting and visceral voices I’ve ever heard, this is a story of pain, suffering, loss and abuse.  But moreover, it’s a story about finding yourself among the ashes and overcoming what you would thought couldn’t be overcome.  It’s about emerging from the ruins of a life as a new person with focus, joy and acceptance.

My Thoughts

Wow, this is an amazing book.  Domenica Ruta has the most moving voice I’ve ever read.  Her words will haunt you long after you have closed the book.  It’s hard to believe the pain she suffered and overcame.  Her road was a struggle and it’s inspiring to read her words, hear her story and see her ultimate survival of a childhood that most would have never been able to break free from.  It’s heartbreaking that the ones who should have been there to protect her, teach her and love her couldn’t be there for her.  It’s saddening to see how they hurt and abused her over and over and over.  It’s not surprising that Ruta was forced to suppress some of the events from her past and more surprising that when they came out, they didn’t ultimately destroy her.

Clearly this isn’t a feel good book.  It’s a difficult read and will bring you to tears over and over.  You’ll feel sadness, pain and anger for both Ruta, Kathi and Zeke.  But ultimately you’ll feel refreshed and hopeful for better things to come.  You’ll feel empowered and inspired.  Domenica Ruta is a fresh voice filled with passion, pain and hopefulness.  I’m eager to see what she writes next.  If you are looking for a memoir that will stick with you for months after you’ve closed the cover, I highly recommend With or Without You by Domenica Ruta.


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