With or Without You Summary

With or Without You Summary

With or Without You Summary by Caroline Leavitt  (Author)

This romance novel borders on the territory of love and self-discovery and laden with the twists of fate. Moving, tender, and incisive, Caroline Leavitt wrote With or Without You to outline the surprising journey of an artist. Stella has been married to her husband for more than 20 years, but the problems between them seem to surface only recently.

When they first encountered, Simon was enjoying his fame as an up-and-coming rocker. However, the shadow of this past clings onto him so tightly that it hinders his growth. As his future as a musician grows dimmer and his band tatters, Simon finds the urges to hit the road overwashes him. Even if that means leaving his wife and their struggling marriage behind.

Upon his departure, Stella suddenly falls into a coma. It tears him apart, making him choose between his life-long dream and the love of his life. The choice is even more disheartening as she wakes up a changed person. She is now blessed with new artistic talent and an incredible one at that. It’s high time the couple reassessed their life values, what they can give to themselves and each other, as well as what the relationship can give them.


With or Without You is an honest and intimate story, that is unapologetically written about relationships in this contemporary era. What happens when love falls apart and people change, literally. Falling into a coma and wake up with an encompassing talent is just the beginning of the story of artistic ambition and betrayal, of the endurance of love and the inflictions that lovers induce. At the same time, it inquires about stability and our secret desire to reinvent the self. 

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I'm the New York Times Bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You, and the award-winning author of eight other novels. Pictures of You was a Costco "Pennie's Pick," a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick, and it was also on many Best of 2011 lists, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine, and Kirkus Reviews, which also put the novel on their Top Five Novels about Family and Love list. My 10th novel IS THIS TOMORROW, was an Indie Pick, A Jewish Book Club pick, a Best Book of the Year from January Magazine, and also a New York Times bestseller and long-listed for the Maine Readers Prize. CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD was an Indie Next Pick and a Best Book fo the Year from BlogCritics and The Pulpwood Queens (they have a thousand bookclubs across America.) WITH OR WITHOUT YOU will be out from Algonquin August 4, 2020. I'm a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellow, a Goldenberg Fiction Prize Winner, and a Sundance Screenwriting Finalist. I teach writing at UCLA and Stanford online, have private clients, and I'm a book critic for People and the San Francisco Chronicle. I'm deliriously happily married to the writer Jeff Tamarkin (his book, Got A Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane, was one of the top music books of the year, and ShellShocked) and we have an actor son.


"What if Snow White woke up and decided she didn’t much like Prince Charming? Something like that happens in Leavitt's latest novel . . . One character’s coma is only the first surprise in this satisfying story of middle-aged love."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A page-turner by The New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of "A Mighty Blaze," this story about a nurse who falls into a coma raises issues of loyalty, friendship, love and life, all set to music.”
Good Morning America Online (New Must-Read Books for the Ultimate Escape in August)

“By the author of 2010's best-selling Pictures of You, among other novels, it's a moving story with characters you can't help but care for, especially Stella, who must build a new life after her brush with death.”
AARP “2020 Summer Book Preview: 12 Unique Novels to Choose From”

“Leavitt’s seamless writing easily carries readers through the compelling story . . . Leavitt’s fans and readers of domestic drama will be thrilled.”

“A poignant, instantly compelling novel…This is an unflinchingly raw and honest novel, but it is also propulsive and suspenseful. The characters are so wholly realized and developed that they seem to move on their own, with Leavitt simply pulling the strings above them. She is a brave and risk-taking author, and With or Without You is a perfect picture of what she can do when left with a spark of inspiration and a gripping premise.”

“What I like best about Leavitt—her signature perhaps—is her fearlessness with plot. I’ll take a good coma story with a miracle recovery anytime.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A wonderful novel about life as mess and disappointment, life as catastrophe and regret, but also life as transformation and resilience. Leavitt’s characters are great company, and watching them find a way forward in their suddenly altered world is a joy. Deeply engaging, tense but hopeful, and completely recommended.”
Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

 “With or Without You is a compulsively readable novel of artistic ambition and the various betrayals lovers and friends both endure and inflict on each other. It also asks fascinating questions about the stability of the self and our capacity—erhaps even our secret desire?—to reinvent ourselves. Caroline Leavitt is a born storyteller, and this is one knockout of a story.”
Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men

“Caroline Leavitt has accomplished in With or Without You the hardest but most profound task of the novelist: she makes us not only understand but care about characters as flawed as ourselves.  Stella, Simon, and Libby straddle the ravine between hip urbanity and soulful vulnerability—each achieving a redemption that gives us hope that we might too.”
Lisa Gornick, author of The Peacock Feast

With or Without You is a moving novel about twists of fate, the shifting terrain of love, and coming into your own. With tenderness and incisive insight, Leavitt spotlights a woman's unexpected journey towards her art.”
Madeline Miller, New York Times bestselling author of Circe

“What a compelling, wonderful read this book is. With or Without You asks the great question of what happens to a long-loving couple if one of them changes utterly. This novel gives us high drama while keeping the fairest possible view of the messy lives of these characters. Another triumph for Caroline Leavitt.”
Joan Silber, bestselling author of Improvement
“Caroline Leavitt's new novel With or Without You seduced me instantly and held my heart from the first page to the last. Like Elena Ferrante's raw and intimate explorations into human relationships, this novel will make you laugh, cry, yell, and possibly more. At the heart of the story is the art of a woman's life, pulsing with beauty, desire, loss, never-ending change, and the grit it takes to keep going.”
Lidia Yuknavitch, bestselling author of The Book of Joan

“It was if I were falling in love: flushed, fascinated, filled with hope, fear and joy. Leavitt's exploration of the many ways in which we change over the course of a lifetime—and how we keep or lose those we love throughout these mutations—is compassionate, profound and moving. Beyond being utterly captivated, I felt like I had grown wiser and more humane after reading this beautiful novel.”
Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation

“In With or Without You, Caroline Leavitt once again explores disaster's aftermath and its affect on the lives of ordinary people tethered by love and shared history.  What makes this novel so poignant, and also makes it feel so true, is that there is no going back.  There is only now, the newness of their altered realities and the courage to continue.”
Helen Schulman, bestselling author of This Beautiful Life and Come with Me

“This fresh, engaging, intimate tale of love and identity subverts the reader’s expectations again and again. Caroline Leavitt refuses to take one clichéd turn. A complete original, an absolute delight.”
Janet Fitch, author of Chimes of a Lost Cathedral and White Oleander

“After all of their lives are irrevocably altered by a single tragic incident, Stella, Simon, and Libby—the major characters in Caroline Leavitt’s compelling, deeply moving new novel—are forced to make complex choices between freedom and responsibility, love and loyalty. Leavitt depicts her characters without judgment, and by doing so compels readers to ask themselves what they might do in such difficult moments.”
Ron Rash, author of The Risen