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Publisher's Summary

A haunting, unforgettable mother-daughter story for a new generation - the debut of a blazing new lyrical voice

Domenica Ruta grew up in a working-class, unforgiving Italian town north of Boston where in the seventeenth century women were hanged as witches. Her mother, Kathi, a notorious figure in this hardscrabble place, was a drug addict and sometime dealer whose life swung between welfare and riches, whose highbrow taste was at odds with her base appetites. And yet she managed, despite the chaos she created, to instill in her daughter the idea that art - via a classic film or a classical education - could transcend this life of undying grudges, self-inflicted misfortune, and the crooked moral code that Kathi and her cohorts lived by. With or Without You is the story of Domenica’s unconventional coming of age - a darkly hilarious chronicle of a misfit ’90s childhood and the necessary and painful act of breaking away, and of overcoming her own addictions and demons in the process. In a brilliant stylistic feat, Domenica Ruta has penned a powerful, inspiring, pause-resisting, and finally redemptive story about loving and leaving.

©2013 Domenica Ruta (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“In the world of memoir, Mary Karr’s and Geoffrey Wolff’s exceptional books burn and brighten, like actual stars among strings of tinsel. With or Without You is like that. I will read whatever Domenica Ruta writes.” (Amy Bloom)
“ ‘Make it new,’ Ezra Pound directed, and Domenica Ruta has. Difficult childhoods are plentiful, the talent to transform adversity into art in short supply. Unflinching in its regard, forgiving in its humor, With or Without You is that rare thing, a story you think you know transformed into one you have to read to the end.” (Kathryn Harrison)
“Freakishly brilliant, brilliantly freakish, this is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Domenica Ruta has done something every artist with a failed family must do: She has created herself.” (Gary Shteyngart)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Courtney
  • Falls church, VA, United States
  • 03-02-13

A real and riveting story-beautifully written

This book makes up for every dud I have listened to on audible. The author is unflinching, unyielding in her description of the insanity and chaos she grew up in, yet she doesn't ask for the reader's sympathy or pity. The love-hate-fear triad she feels for her drug-addicted mother is what makes the story so compelling. As in real life, this book is all shades of gray. A mother who neglects her child, shares drugs with her child, turns a blind eye to sexual abuse, but at the same time is determined to secure the best education for her. A mother who seems to care only about getting high and being in love, yet turns a small, failing business into a million dollar enterprise. And then loses it all to drugs.
The author does an incredible job at portraying a relationship fraught with ambivalence and fear. She has an overwhelming love for her mother, yet prays for her death so as to release her from the bondage of codependency and pain. The redemption comes when the author's instinct for self-preservation appears and she begins the journey to find her authentic self.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Unbelievably Good

This audio book was the best I've heard in a long time. What an amazingly sad yet upbeat story. This book hit me on a very personal level, one which I wish I had the gift to share articulately. But, for me, a story this visceral is beyond description.

Reminiscent of Glass Castle, but better.

I started listening and did not stop until it was over.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Wow! My Mom Never Looked Better!

Domenica Ruta rose above a troubled, scary childhood, and although she probably carries a lot of baggage, it looks like she turned out ALL RIGHT! She is a fantastic narrator and could have a career doing that if she wanted to, Very clear, strong voice with humor. This was a good story very well told.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • kris
  • Garden Grove, CA, United States
  • 05-02-13

Beautifully told story of dysfunction

What did you love best about With or Without You?

I always like a success story. So many people have grown up in dysfunction, and it is inspirational to hear of people who survive and thrive whatever craziness they have been through.

What did you like best about this story?

Dominca's cadence and the way she delivers her story, with humor and believability.<br/>

What about Domenica Ruta’s performance did you like?

The story is told so matter of fact. She doesn't whine or "woe is me". She doesn't present herself as a victim, she just shares her story...and what a story!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, if I could have, I would have.

Any additional comments?

I'm very impressed with this woman. The only thing that puzzles me is how she ever felt herself unattractive. I looked up her picture on line - she is gorgeous!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

All too common and insidious tale

You know this story; you may be living it -- or your neighbor is, your friends, your family. You no longer have to attend AA, NA, ALANON, to hear this kind of horror story because addicition is no respecter of persons and infects us all in some way, or will. When I was working in my profession, I heard worse stories, and I don't doubt many of you could unfortunately tell a darker version of Ruta's journey. (It breaks my heart.)

This was not exactly what I had expected after reading some summaries. I mistakenly thought Ruta was someone of whom we were socially or publicly aware that had revealed an unexpected past. I haven't found any information about Domenica Ruta other than that she is a Survivor--which absolutely doesn't diminish the relevance of her book. What gives this book credence is the fact that Ruta is bravely telling it; adding another voice to both the issue and Hope, because if you have faced this monster in some form, you know that Hope needs constant reaffirming, and the conquering deserves praise and support. Overall a very readable, well written, and engaging story worth the time. Great achievement Ruta, and best wishes for continued success.

14 of 19 people found this review helpful

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It's About Time

I have owned this audio book for 1.5 years. I have officially re-downloaded this book to my iPod three times, so I figure I should talk about why.

I usually chose biographies. memoirs or autobiographies about people who are known to me. So, it was by chance that I gambled on Domenica Ruta. I'm certain it was the reviews of others that convinced me it was worth the risk.

I love this book. Even though I can only commiserate on a small scale with Domenica, as my family's dysfunction pales in comparison to hers and I never (thankfully) developed a dependency on mood altering substances. I can't even confidently say that Domenica has completely overcome her demons and is on a really healthy path, but she is a survivor, a chameleon and has become a seemingly successful human against all odds. Others would have caved and followed the family dynamic, while she chose to see things for what they were, make better choices and extract herself from the chaos in which she was raised and trained.

Why I think this book is amazing is because it is raw, honest and detailed. Domenica's voice is the only one that could have read this story properly. I don't consider her monotone (as another reviewer suggests) she speaks evenly, but impassioned and her gritty tone is the perfect vehicle. Her memories are vividly recalled, as anyone, especially a child couldn't forget what her eyes have seen.

Again, I love this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sandra
  • Lebanon, KY, United States
  • 01-25-15

No plot.

The narrator, also the author, does a good job with her story. However, the book is random and without a plot, Like a diary or journal.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Jaw-dropping, riveting, amazing book

What made the experience of listening to With or Without You the most enjoyable?

The story moves beautifully between time frames. The writing is full of vivid, shocking imagery, with creative and original phrases.

What about Domenica Ruta’s performance did you like?

The author's voice is compelling and she reads her own work so very well.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, because I could hardly stop listening!

Any additional comments?

I can't wait for more from Domenica Ruta. She is a fascinating and truly gifted writer.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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WITH OR WITHOUT YOU...

Intense look at a young woman's life and her dysfunctional relationship with her mom. Which is not to say it was easy to end, have to stop, spoilers..... TRUE STORY 😶

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Good read, obviously very personal journey

This was a good read and difficult in parts but that's what life is about. She's had a interesting journey and so glad she has ended up where she has. As for just the writing, it did jump around some. Not so bad you couldn't keep track but more like that's where her brain took her as she wrote her story. It might have been a little easier to relate to her if she'd finished some of her stories or thoughts. But overall I'd recommend it to others.