The Evolution of Pain

With or Without You book cover

The Evolution of Pain

With or Without You: A Memoir; Domenica Ruta

Book review by Kristy Webster
Thursday Review Contributing Writer

There is no shortage of memoirs about dysfunctional childhoods, alcoholic parents and trauma these days, it's true.

That's why it takes something special for a memoir to truly stand out amongst the rest. That is exactly what is accomplished in With or Without You, a memoir by Domenica Ruta. Books about drug addicted mothers who neglect or abuse their children are haunting and powerful stories to begin with, but Ruta's lyrical writing, her unflinching honesty and her ability to find humor and humanity in retrospect take the reader to a whole new level.

Kathi, Domenica's mother is a complicated woman. She is at once wildly ambitious and sometimes even dauntingly capable, as well as morbidly inappropriate, moody, selfish, and destructive. Her idea of a necessary education involves keeping her daughter home from school to watch the Godfather or a Woody Allen film. Kathi's quick temper and impulsiveness are center stage for the duration of Domenica's adolescence. In fact, the book opens with Domenca reliving the day she sat in the car and watched her mother bash in another woman's windshield.

Even when Domenica leaves her mother and her past behind to attend college, and past riddled with abuse, instability and shoddy morals, Domenica still lives in a life haunted by her mother's choices and influence.

With startling self-awareness, vulnerability and resilience, Domenica shares with us not a conclusion, not an end to pain, but the discovery of its importance and the surrounding phenomena of pain's evolution.

Ruta's memoir blazes a new path for an all to common and tragic childhood experience with her humor, her wrath, and her outstanding comprehension and use of sharp and resonating prose.

This one is a knock-out.