Start Without Me
Joshua Max Feldman (Adult Fiction)
Adam Warshaw is an ex-keyboardist and recovering alcoholic who is muddling along at his job at a bank. Marissa Cavano is a flight attendant who fled an alcoholic mother, married into a wealthy—albeit classist and racist—family, and is currently struggling to save her marriage. Both are heading home for Thanksgiving and their paths are about to intersect in what would be the start of a highly unpredictable and tumultuous day that would send each of their lives in unexpected directions.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, you can’t judge it by its BACK cover either. Joshua Max Feldman’s Start Without Me is described as A darkly comic novel. Nope. …the quintessential Thanksgiving novel. Let’s hope not. …a unique solidarity between two strangers as they help each other… More like one constantly saves the other one’s bacon. …Feldman’s novel excels in his crafting of extraordinary dialogue. OK. Nailed that one.
This was an extremely difficult book to get through as Adam’s character is insufferable, unrepentant, oblivious, ungracious, selfish, self-absorbed… The list is long and would take me until Thanksgiving to get through them all. I think the difference between Adam and some other awful main characters that have completely destroyed a book for me (I’m looking at you Kathy Nicolo) is that Adam KNOWS he’s a dumpster fire, the author knows he’s a dumpster fire, and everyone around Adam knows…well, you get the idea.
A friend once told me of a co-worker who said that she HATED a certain restaurant (both shall remain nameless) because she got food poisoning there four times. Four. Times. So, at that point, do you blame the restaurant or do you blame the patron? Who’s the knucklehead? The same with this book. Is it Feldman’s fault that I was totally frustrated by his book or is it mine? I mean, just like the knucklehead co-worker, I kept going back expecting a different outcome only to be confronted with the same mess over and over again. Was I thinking that if I JUST ordered the dessert, I’d be safe?!
The good news is that there are a few bright spots. Feldman really is a master at writing dialogue. It was one of the few things that saved this story and if he had done more of this and less of Adam waxing poetic about his past days in his rock band, I could’ve saved myself a lot of time from having to pet the neighbor’s dog in order to get back into my happy place. The only other glimmer was Marissa, whose backstory is an absolute trainwreck. She is the only character worthy of our sympathy and the only true adult in the room. She extends Adam more grace than he deserves and although she’s been the victim of many bad choices, she’s determined to learn from them and move forward stronger and wiser.
Before this book, Feldman wrote The Book of Jonah. After all of the negative emotions still coursing through my veins after dealing with Adam, it might take me some time before I’m strong enough to tackle this book. In the meantime, you better start without me.
* Book cover image attributed to: http://www.thriftbooks.com
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