Friday, August 7, 2020

With Or Without You by Caroline Leavitt

 They shouldn't work as a couple.  Stella is logical and grounded, a nurse who is a great at her work.  Simon is mercurial and creative, a musician whose band almost made it to the top.  Stella's best friend, Libby, is a doctor at the hospital where Stella works.  She can't understand why Stella would stay with Simon who seems childish and self-centered to her.  Stella supports all of Simon's dreams and where does that leave Stella?

Now Simon has one more chance to make it big.  The band has been asked to go to California to open for a rising star and it could mean the start of something new.  When Stella tells Simon she doesn't want to go with him, they argue and then end up partying to try to make up.  The next morning Simon wakes up determined to talk things out but Stella doesn't wake up.  She is in a coma.

The coma lasts for several months.  During that time, Simon starts to change.  He begins to grow up and realizes that his role is to be there for Stella no matter what she needs.  Libby helps with Stella's care and sees the changes in Simon.  As she gets to know him better, she changes her opinion of him.  He seems more mature and giving now.

But when Stella finally awakes from her coma, all is changed.  She is a different person.  She likes different food and different things while her old habits don't interest her at all.  She starts to draw and then paint people and a huge talent flows through her.  Soon she is in demand and she finds the fame that has always eluded Simon.  Simon is confused at the changes and draws even closer to Libby.  As they inevitably fall in love, they try to find ways to justify the betrayal of Stella.  When Stella discovers their relationship, everything comes to a crisis.

Caroline Leavitt has written a warm and wise novel about human lives and how none of us lives just one life.  We all change throughout our lives and what defines us at one point may not interest us at all at another.  What does love mean in this kind of changing and unfolding of lives?  Does a true love change with the people involved or does it have a finite timeline?  The reader will find themselves challenged to think through these questions and to relate them to their own lives.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in our relationships and connections to each other. 

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