David and Marilyn, their three daughters, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren gather at the family vacation home for what they already know will be an emotional weekend. They are there to participate in a memorial service for the youngest Frankel, Leo, a journalist who had been kidnapped and murdered in Iraq almost exactly one year earlier. Despite the passage of an entire year, it soon becomes clear that all of them are still suffering from the trauma of Leo’s sudden loss. Emotions are raw, nerves are on edge, and as old resentments and outrages are openly expressed, the family’s very survival will be tested.
The beauty of The World without You and Joshua Henkin’s writing is that so many of the other characters also had moving and poignant moments in which they become utterly believable to the reader. Ultimately, this is not really a story about Leo Frankel and what happened to him in Iraq. Rather, it is a novel about the people Leo left behind to live in the world without him, and how these people have had their lives forever changed by his murder. To reconcile themselves to the grief they feel, all of them will be forced to dig deeply within themselves – a process that finally begins one Fourth of July weekend in the Berkshires.