Domenica Ruta grew up outside Boston as the brainy misfit daughter of a loud, buxom, peroxide-blonde Italian mother. A vain and mercurial “narcotic omnivore,” her mom loved and hated her only daughter with equal ferocity. Their home was full of contradictions. As a kid, Ruta was given OxyContin for headaches. Her mom worked extra jobs to pay for Ruta’s dance lessons, but refused to acknowledge that her daughter was being molested. As a teenager, Ruta was pushed toward both higher education and teen pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, she eventually began her own spiral into addiction. “Denial and the desire to self-destruct are elemental cousins,” she writes; “mining one yields the other in equal proportion.”
With or Without You is valiant and heartbreaking. Though Ruta’s life has been traumatic, her narrative lacks any over-the-top melodrama, and finds its strength in restraint.
With or Without You: A Memoir, $13.99, amazon.com
By Kathleen Yale
This review appears in the Feb/Mar 2013 issue of BUST Magazine with Jason Schwartzman. Subscribe now.
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.