Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Published by
Spiegel & Grau (March, 2013)
Current material
1st Pass Pages
Original language


by Ruta, Domenica

An unforgettable mother-daughter story for a new generation and the debut of a blazing new lyrical voice. Domenica Ruta offers us the spectacle of a crazy childhood, and in writing about hers, she gives us each insight to our own lives, crazy or not.

Domenica Ruta grew up in a working-class, unforgiving Italian town north of Boston, where in the 17th century women were hanged as witches.
Her mother Kathi, a notorious figure in this hardscrabble place, was a drug addict and sometimes dealer whose life swung between welfare and riches, whose highbrow taste was at odds with her base appetites, and yet she managed, despite the chaos she created, to instill in her daughter a sense that art—via a classic film or a classical education—could transcend this life of undying grudges, self-inflicted misfortune, and the crooked moral code that Kathi and her cohorts lived by.

This is the story of Domenica’s unconventional coming of age—a darkly hilarious chronicle of a misfit 90s childhood and the necessary and painful act of breaking away, and of overcoming her own addictions and demons in the process. In a brilliant stylistic feat, Domenica Ruta has written a powerful, inspiring, compulsively readable, and finally redemptive story about loving and leaving. Domenica Ruta was born and raised in Danvers, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. She was a finalist for the Keene Prize for Literature and has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, Blue Mountain Center, Jentel, and Hedgebrook.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Sebastian Ritscher

Available View on Rightsdesk



"Make it new,’ Ezra Pound directed, and Domenica Ruta has. Difficult childhoods are plentiful, the talent to transform adversity into art in short supply. Unflinching in its regard, forgiving in its humor, With or Without You is that rare thing, a story you think you know transformed into one you have to read to the end.

Quote: Kathryn Harrison

What moved me most are Domenica's insights into human nature, and her beautiful and moving observations about the world around her. As only the best of writers can do, she works her alchemy on ordinary life so that it becomes something memorable and meaningful for all of us.

Quote: Cindy Spiegel, Publisher

Memoirs about terrible childhoods are plentiful, but not many of them can measure up to this engrossing, lyrical debut about growing up with a dangerous yet oddly mesmerizing mother.

Review: Entertainment Weekly

A singular new coming-of-age memoir traces one girl’s twisting path up from the mean streets (and parents) to the reflective life of a writer…The burgeoning canon of literary memoir—spiked with a generous pour of 12-step-program confessional—begets another winner in Domenica Ruta’s searing With or Without You…In spite of the glaring deficits in her life, Ruta was born ‘with a wolfish appetite for the printed word.’…Luckily, her word addiction kept progressing until she had all the tools she needed to create this gloriously gutsy memory-work.

Review: Elle

Too often the memoir category sacrifices good writing to the quick pulse of the storyline, but Domenica Ruta is a real and excellent writer who has language by the throat. She writes with big beauty, deep respect for language, and drives her story with huge humanism, empathy, and humor.

Quote: Gabrielle Hamilton

This book is a luminous, layered accomplishment.

Review: New York Times Book Review

The book is a New York Times bestseller the first week out! It appears at number 30 on the Nonfiction list, and number 15 on the ebook Bestseller list.

Quote: NYT Bestseller

In the world of memoir, Mary Karr’s and Geoffrey Wolff’s exceptional books burn and brighten, like actual stars among strings of tinsel. With or Without You is like that. I will read whatever Domenica Ruta writes.

Quote: Amy Bloom

Chip McGrath feature: Escaping a Mother’s Chaos, and Her Own

Review: New York Times

Australia: HarperCollins Brazil: Benvira / Editora Saraiva China: Business Weekly

Quote: Client

Freakishly brilliant, brilliantly freakish, this is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Domenica Ruta has done something every artist with a failed family must do. She has created herself.

Quote: Gary Shteyngart

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