This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kelly Allen
Martha has the perfect life; she is happily married to a man who adores her, they have two smart and lovely children, and she has a dream job interviewing celebrities for a national newspaper. Her husband Jamie is a stay-at-home dad, working on his writing in his spare time, whilst supporting Martha’s career and taking care of the kids. Life couldn’t be more perfect for Martha, until one day she discovers something she may never be able to forget.
After Martha begins a series of interviews with a very famous actor, Charlie Simmons, she returns home in his clothes, much to everyone’s surprise. Jamie, her husband, had accidentally ironed a large hole in the dress she was wearing, so she had no choice but to borrow some of Charlie’s clothes to protect her dignity. The next day Martha and Charlie are pictured in the papers together, her in his clothes, and both of them looking very happy together.
After seeing them for herself, Martha is worried that Jamie will be hurt by the innocent photographs. She decides to put a photo of Jamie’s head on the body of Charlie in the picture and then make it his desktop picture on his personal computer. Martha begins looking for a photo of Jamie on his computer so that she can use it for her plan, but as she scrolls through all the albums, she notices one she doesn’t recognise. When she clicks on the album, her whole world falls apart before her eyes.Across the ocean in LA, Charlie’s ex-wife Liv, who left him for another man, is struggling with life. She is drinking far too much and her relationship is on rocky ground. Whilst she continues on her slippery slope, Martha and Charlie become closer, Jamie struggles to forgive himself and all their worlds seem to be colliding towards an unknown end.
This book is a very easy read, flitting from each character’s perspective with ease. Martha’s viewpoint is the easiest to follow since she is the main focus of the book, but Charlie is the character I grew to like the most. I liked his strength of character, his attitude towards life and his love for his son, Felix. I think I also connected with him because I saw his point of view all the way through the book.
When Martha frets about what decision she should make regarding Jamie’s betrayal, Charlie believes he has dug his own grave, whereas Martha is a lot more forgiving, mainly for the sake of her children. I couldn’t settle with the forgiveness, since it was built on the love of her children, not the love she had for Jamie. Martha’s actions later in the book are also on the same level of betrayal as Jamie’s, yet she never shows an ounce of guilt for what she has done. This was a bit infuriating, and made me feel a little less towards Martha than in the beginning.
I didn’t really take to the theme of the book. Unfortunately the whole betrayal and forgiveness theme isn’t really something I would choose to read about, but if you like this concept and enjoy this type of story, then it is an absolute must-read. I think it is handled very well, especially the conversations between Jamie and Martha after the discovery. They seem full of turmoil, which is evident in both their dialogue and body language – this is written very well and with sensitivity for both characters.
I felt really emotional towards the children involved – both Charlie and Liv’s son Felix and Martha and Jamie’s children Mimi and Tom. They seemed stuck in the middle of all the confusion, betrayal and arguing between the adults. I also felt heart-wrenchingly sad when I read Jamie’s letter to the children. It was exceptionally moving and a very dark turn right at the end of the book – I wasn’t expecting it and liked it all the more because of that!
This book is about adult relationships, but adults behaving like children a lot of the time with jealousy at the root of all their problems. The children in the book seem to have a greater sense of forgiveness and understanding – a very true portrayal of parent child relationships in general.
With or Without You is a very easy read, sad but uplifting and handled with a clear understanding of family life thrown into turmoil.