Start Without Me
by Joshua Max Feldman
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 17, 2017)
The author of the critically acclaimed The Book of Jonah explores questions of love and choice, disappointment and hope in the lives of two strangers who meet by chance in this mesmerizing tale that unfolds over one Thanksgiving Day.
Adam is a former musician and recovering alcoholic who is home for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. Surrounded by his parents and siblings, nieces and nephews—all who have seen him at his worst—he can’t shake the feeling that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll always be the one who can’t get it right.
Marissa is a flight attendant whose marriage is strained by simmering tensions over race, class, and ambition. Heading to her in-laws for their picture-perfect holiday family dinner, her anxiety is intensified by the knowledge she is pregnant from an impulsive one-night-stand.
In an airport restaurant on Thanksgiving morning, Adam and Marissa meet. Over the course of this day fraught with emotion and expectation, these two strangers will form an unlikely bond as they reckon with their family ties, their pasts, and the choices that will determine their way forward.
Joshua Max Feldman focuses his knowing eye on one of the last bastions of classical American idealism, the Thanksgiving family gathering, as he explores our struggles to know—and to be—our best selves. Hilarious and heartrending, Start Without Me is a thoughtful and entertaining page-turner that will leave its indelible mark on your heart.
The stillness of the house was deafening somehow—like all the sleeping people were vibrating at a frequency only he could hear: his family, ringing in his ears.
They’d been fighting daily lately, like it was a setting in their relationship they didn’t know how to turn off.
Marissa’s temper had a velocity such that she only knew she’d lost it about the same time everyone else did.
I don’t even recognize you anymore, with this persona you have now, of this like, like, rich soccer mom, this Burberry Nazi or whatever you’re supposed to be.
I struggled through this oddly compelling train wreck of a story, yet similar to arriving at the scene of a massive train wreck, morbid curiosity kept me from looking away. Adam and Marrisa were strangers who lived on opposite sides of the United States but met while traveling on Thanksgiving Day; both were in the midst of yet another heinous screw-up. The only thing either one of these characters had seemed to master was the art of poor decisions. These people were toxic, and it was no wonder, their histories had been poison. Yet I couldn’t stop reading. They ultimately ended up joining forces after the request of a ride, which had the effect of kicking an impending strong wind into hurricane category.
The overwhelming majority of the characters mentioned in this story were not likable or admirable people while most were, in fact, self-serving, obnoxious, and reprehensible. Despite their best intentions and hopes, each stop the pair made during their nightmarish Thanksgiving holiday, and each additional family member that was visited was more abhorrent than the last. I kept hoping for a turnaround and had my fingers crossed while watching closely for some redeemable quality to surface, but knew better than to hold my breath – I would have asphyxiated. Yet I couldn’t put my Kindle down, Mr. Feldman’s prickly yet often amusing and emotive storytelling held me in place and kept me invested and intrigued, loathsome characters and all. While reading this unusual and conflicting chronicle, I couldn’t decide whether to despise him or admire his skills, I finished his work feeling a little of one and a considerable amount of the other. I was provided with a review copy of this oddly entertaining book by TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins.
About Joshua Max Feldman
Joshua Max Feldman is the author of The Book of Jonah. Born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, he has lived in England, Russia, and Switzerland, and currently resides in Brooklyn.