It’s so true that someone’s life can change in one single moment. On one such fateful night, Stella and her long-term boyfriend, Simon, are trying to decide whether they should stay together. Simon’s a pseudo-rock star who dreams of stardom with his band and has an amazing opportunity to head to LA for a gig the next morning. Stella, a dedicated nurse, wants to finally settle down and start a family. They spend most of the night arguing, drinking wine, and then they each take a pill that one of Simon’s bandmates gave him (even though they’re not sure exactly what it is). That decision changes the course of both of their lives dramatically.
I didn’t really know much about the plot of this novel before I started reading, and I definitely preferred it that way. With that said, I won’t go anymore into what happens in the story – the struggles that Simon and Stella face might feel more intriguing if any potential readers are left in the dark initially. But I will say that Leavitt did a wonderful job creating these main characters. They’re believable, genuine, and while at times their decisions may seem aggravating to the reader, the characters are nothing if not wholly human.
Another element I loved was the feeling of tension and frustration that Leavitt was able to infuse throughout the entire novel. Each of the characters (including the sections from the perspective of Stella’s best friend, Libby) is experiencing a feeling of being stuck in their lives. Whether it’s in their relationship or their career, the characters long for some type of change even if they don’t know exactly what would need to transpire for them to be able to move forward. This book served as such a great reminder that sometimes all we need is a tiny step forward to catapult us into a new (and often better) phase of our lives.
The only real downside to the novel was that the ending felt a tad rushed to me. I would have loved maybe an epilogue set a few years in the future to see how the characters are doing and where they are in their lives.
Otherwise, I truly enjoyed spending time with the characters in “With or Without You.” They were a perfect example of how the worst thing you can do in your life is stay in an unhappy situation simply because you’re afraid of change.
*Free ARC provided by Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review*