When a summer house is not a home

bb1d8f632031805f764ac9600c6fc5f1

For city dwellers, the summer home is a place of escape and renewal, a place to strengthen family bonds. But what happens when a family heads out to the country not to relax, but to mourn? Joshua Henkin’s second novel, “The World Without You,” follows the Frankels, a New York family gathered in the Berkshires during Fourth of July weekend to mark the death of beloved son Leo, a journalist killed in Iraq. It’s a somber occasion but, like most family reunions, not without fireworks. Henkin, who directs the MFA program in fiction writing at Brooklyn College, spoke to us from his home.

When writing the book, did you consult anyone who had lost a loved one in a war?

I didn’t. The inspiration for the book, on some level, has nothing to do with the war but with a family story of mine. I had a cousin who died of Hodgkin’s disease when he was in his late 20s. His death hung over the extended family for years. About 30 years later at a family reunion, my aunt, his mother, said, “I have two sons,” and everyone was very startled because her first son had died 30 years earlier.

I think the Frankels are the kind of people — upper middle-class, privileged people — who have strong opinions about the war, but [it] doesn’t really touch them in a day-to-day way the way it does people who have sons or daughters in the military. For the Frankels, the war was very abstract until it touched them personally in the most horrific way possible.

In the book, one sibling becomes an orthodox Jew and moves to Israel. Is the tension that this creates a reflection of real-life tension that can occur between reformed and orthodox  family members?

I think that it is. I grew up in a complicated home: My father’s father was an orthodox rabbi, and my father, although he moved out of that world and went to Harvard law school, became a professor and lived in the secular world, remained orthodox until the day he died. My mother is Jewish but grew up in a secular home … so I’m certainly familiar both with the secular Jewish world and with the orthodox world.

I just read in The New York Times the other day that the Jewish population in New York has gone up for the first time in many years because of the huge growth of the orthodox community on the Upper West Side. The Upper West Side that I grew up in was quite Jewish, but much more secular. … I don’t see a whole lot of tension on the Upper West Side itself, but absolutely, in the world right now, you see tension between the orthodox, conservative and reform movements. You also see people cooperating.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…