Monday, March 12, 2018

Start Without Me

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman (2017), 276 pages

Adam is a recovering alcoholic who was invited to his family's Thanksgiving gathering across the country eight months after going through rehab, and he thinks that his family expects him to fail. After arriving at his parents' home in the late evening, he flees from it in the early morning after accidentally breaking the coffee pot, expecting that they'll blame it on a relapse. He returns his rental car and is eating at a hotel restaurant near the airport, planning to skip Thanksgiving with his family after all.

Marissa, a fight attendant, has just finished working an overnight shift and is struggling with whether to secretly abort her fetus, the result of a fling with an ex-boyfriend, and pretend all is well with her husband, the son of an extremely wealthy senator and his antagonistic wife. She is expected to arrive at the in-laws' home in time for a photo shoot (for the senator's annual mailing) and Thanksgiving meal. Meanwhile, Marissa's been estranged from her own mother for 5 years in an attempt to escape the ravages of her mother's own alcoholism. She's at the same hotel restaurant as Adam, getting coffee to prepare for her long drive to her husband's family mansion.

Initially, I thought that the set-up for the novel took too long, but later I appreciated the care taken by the author. Over the course of a very long Thanksgiving day, Adam and Marissa travel together, learning about each other and buoying each other up, but also sometimes getting extremely annoyed by each other. When their respective family members make their appearances in the story, we get a better sense of the difficulties they've experienced and their need to figure out what comes next in their lives.

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