Spotlight: With or Without You

About the book:

After almost twenty years together, Stella, a nurse, and Simon are starting to run into problems. An up-and-coming rock musician when they first met, Simon has been clinging to dreams of fame even as the possibility of it has grown dimmer, and now that his band might finally be on the brink again, he wants to go on the road, leaving Stella behind. The night before Simon is to leave for a gig that could restart his career, Stella has a reaction to a drug that sends her into a coma, not only derailing Simon’s plans but also changing Stella’s very identity. When she emerges from a two-month sleep, she has a significantly altered personality and has acquired an artistic talent of her own. As Simon struggles to cope with Stella’s transformation, he finds himself growing closer and closer to Libby, Stella’s best friend and a doctor at the hospital where she works.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU was inspired by Leavitt’s own stranger-than-fiction experience when she lived through a weeks-long medically induced coma after the birth of her son. Read more about Caroline’s remarkable experience and how it led to the creation of WITH OR WITHOUT YOU in this essay in the Daily Beast: “I was in a Coma and No One Will Tell Me What Happened.”

Early Praise for WITH OR WITHOUT YOU:

“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, author of Circe

“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

“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

“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

“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

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


“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, author of The Book of Joan

“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

“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 author of Girl in Translation

“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—perhaps 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 

“This fresh, engaging, intimate tale of love and identity subverts the reader’s expectations again and again. Caroline Leavitt refuses to take one cliched turn. A complete original, an absolute delight.”

—Janet Fitch, author of Chimes of a Lost Cathedral and White Oleander

“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