Are you now singing the U2 song which is the title of this book? Yes, me too! I read Shari Low’s With or Without You when it was out in ebook last year and am delighted to be taking part in the blogtour to celebrate paperback publication. I am going to share my review again and also have an extract for you to read.
First of all, here is my review
The story begins on the stroke of midnight as 1999 turns into the year 2000. Liv is making the big decision whether to stay with her husband Nate or not, after they have spent a year trying to make their marriage of seven years work for them. There’s nothing bad happened, it’s just that life isn’t exciting anymore, rather routine and Liv feels that a lifetime partnership should be more than that. The first part of the book looks at what happens if she leaves him and the second if she stays with him.
Looking at what might happen if a different path had been chosen in life is a popular theme in film and literature: think Sliding Doors, The Versions of Us and It’s a Wonderful Life. I think we all wonder ‘what if?’ on occasion, whether it’s a big life-changing decision like Liv made or any of the small decisions we make each day. Through both sides of the story, we see the consequences, the ripple effect of Liv’s decisions. Good things that happen in one version of the story, don’t in the other and vice versa. Every decision we make has so many consequences and no-one can predict what they will be. It’s a bit like how in It’s A Wonderful Life, lots of men on a ship in WW2 died since Harry Bailey wasn’t there to save them, because George Bailey hadn’t been there to save Harry from drowning when he was a boy.
One thing about Shari Low’s writing is that she has a real talent for making me feel fully engaged with her characters. They feel real and they are people I really care about. I really wanted them all to find their happy endings. The characters seemed like a great group of people and there was a lot of laughter in their lives. Liv’s mum, Ida, was a hoot! Liv and Nate were part of a very strong friendship group who stuck together in both versions of the story and were a great support to each other no matter what. Justin in particular was someone who needed lots of support and his friends really stuck by him. Having experienced trying to support someone with the same problem as him, I know just how hard that can be.
We can never know what the right decision is but can only make the right decision for ourselves at that precise time. We also can never know what would have happened if we had chosen differently, we can only speculate, which is probably just as well! As for what the right decision was for Liv and Nate, well I’ll leave you to find that out for yourself. What I will say is that as far as I was concerned, everyone ends up in the right place, with the right people, at the right time. With Or Without You is a thought-provoking and very enjoyable read.
And now here is an extract for you to enjoy
I wanted to pull Sasha and Chloe to one side and have a conversation that would involve swear words and vodka, but, as always, Sasha’s boyfriend, Justin, the ultimate party animal, was leading the party celebrations and he didn’t allow interludes for heart-to-heart chats. He popped open yet another bottle of champagne, more New Year exultations were exclaimed and drinks were poured. Nate’s words had completely ambushed my mind, and the last thing I felt like doing was partying, but I didn’t want to dampen the mood for the others. I just wanted to grab Nate, sit down with him and talk it through. Or run as fast as I could until the pressure that was building in my chest subsided. Or drink until I couldn’t remember the problem. Instead, we all ended up back on the packed dance floor, swinging our bits to one of the many Steps songs that made me want to stick a fork in my hand to distract myself from the pain in my ears.
Half way through, Nate signalled that he was heading to the bar. By the end of the song, I’d had enough. I decided to head back over to the table and saw that Nate was already there, his arm slung over the back of the chair next to him. He was watching me come towards him and the expectant expression on his lovely face told me that he wanted an answer I wasn’t ready to give.
I couldn’t face him. Not here, not now.
I needed a delay tactic. I considered giving my mother a quick call to update her on developments, then immediately dismissed the idea as madness, because Ida is… let’s just say ‘one of a kind’. If you crossed a Glaswegian housewife with the theatrical flair of Liberace, the need for attention of the average boyband lead singer, the self-obsession of a reality TV star, the self-awareness of a plant, and added unbridled shamelessness in the face of an audience, then dipped it all in a big vat marked ‘propensity for drama and martyrdom’, then you might get close to the gloriously eye-rolling, toe-curling, oh-dear-God-I-seriously-don’t-think-we-can-be-related, Ida. However, she has a huge heart, is never dull, keeps everyone around her thoroughly entertained and is great at a party. She’d tell anyone who would listen that she’d almost been a star. Glasgow’s Cilla Black, they’d called her back in the day. But she’d met my dad, Sonny – Glasgow’s James Dean, she said – when they were both twenty-two and gave it all up for love. I’ve no idea where the pendulum of truth swung in that version of events, but it was the one she’d stuck to, and repeated at least weekly since I was a child.
I hadn’t told her about the impending split because she adored Nate and I knew she’d insist we should stay together. She and my dad had been married until the day he died ten years ago, although I was sure there must have been bumps in the road. Ida’s insatiable need to be centre of attention could be absolutely infuriating. And my dad… well, he loved a drink and wasn’t one for grand gestures or articulating his emotions. But they’d stuck with each other, and right up until he passed away, they’d still held hands while they were wandering round Marks and Spencer’s on a Saturday afternoon. Although, that was probably because my dad was just trying to keep one of my mum’s hands occupied because it slowed down her shopping speed. Ida could hold an Olympic record for purchases attained in a 100m dash.
Nope, I couldn’t call Ida. And I couldn’t trust my own bank of worldly experience either. My job as a palliative care nurse was to be with people at the end of their lives. How many times had I heard someone say that they wished they hadn’t left someone they loved, wished that they’d tried harder? It was probably just as often as I’d heard someone say that they regretted not leaving a situation that made them unhappy, so those two arguments cancelled each other out.
Bravery. That’s what I needed. Unfortunately, my current emotional reservoir was experiencing a severe drought of courage, so I settled for cowardice. I made a sharp detour and headed for the ballroom exit, finding it difficult to walk in my fishtail dress and crippling heels. Whoever designed these items clearly hadn’t thought through trivial practicalities like walking, bending, and making swift detours to avoid tense conversations with your husband.
The light in the bathroom was so bright it made me squint for a second. That’s probably why I noticed it – the shoe slightly sticking out at a weird angle under a door. Someone else with sore feet feeling the need to kick off their pain-inducing footwear. I used the bathroom, washed my hands, looked again. Puzzled, I crouched down to check it out, and realised that it was still attached to a leg and presumed the owner of both was sitting on the floor.
‘Hello? Are you okay in there?’
‘I don’t want to bother you if you want to be alone, but just let me know you’re okay?’
Still no answer.
I pushed gently on the door and realised it was open, but it was stuck against something.
With or Without You is published by Aria Fiction and is available now in paperback or ebook format. You can order a copy online here: With or Without You
From the back of the book
Have you ever made a life-changing decision and then wondered if you made the right one…?
When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend.
Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?
In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?
Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?
About the author
Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In December, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You and her latest release, Another Day In Winter.
And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So.
Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift.
For all the latest news, visit her on Facebook, twitter, or at http://www.sharilow.com