I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There are too many memoirs being written and published these days. So many people, generally too young, find the need to write a book about their lives. They seem to think I should care about how they were mistreated/made fun of/solved crimes or suffered at the hands of crazy family/drugs/mean girls. Most of them I can live without–and so can you dear reader.
Sometimes I’m wrong though. Some memoirs can be so extremely well-written that it would be a crime not to write it. Domenica Ruta’s memoir With or Without You is one of those. Ruta grew up in a Danvers, Massachusetts in a trash-filled house with her drug-dealing mother. The extremes of her flamboyant mother’s behavior almost strain credulity, but Ruta writes about it in a believable, almost funny tone. I found myself reading many portions out loud to whomever I could find to listen.
Having never fit into the neighborhood, Ruta spends time in her room with her books. As she got older, she found her living situation more and more untenable, even ignoring the time she was molested by a family friend. She lost herself in alcohol and drugs–oddly the thing that made her mother think she was normal. She gets into college and moves away and you think, okay, here is her story of pulling herself up by the bootstraps and now is when she finally gets it together and finds herself.
But no. Ruta’s story goes on to describe a descent into alcohol and drug abuse that rivals Caroline Knapp’s haunting Drinking: A Love Story. Her spiral down wrenches the heart and the spiral back up is equally as gripping. Hers is not a tale of hitting rock bottom and quitting. It’s about the slow climb back to normalcy–if normalcy is living with your dad with no job.
Domenica Ruta’s humor might have saved herself. It certainly makes this book, which could be some weepy woe is me tale, into a wry, unflinching self-portrait. You won’t be able to stop reading once you start. So set aside some time and dive into the book.