Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062668738
Trade paperback, $16.99, 276 pages
If you're dreading your Thankgiving visit home, just be glad that you are not Adam and Marissa, the two main characters in Joshua Max Feldman's novel Start Without Me.
Adam awakens in the basement of his parents' home, his first visit back home in many years. After years of alcohol abuse, rehab stints and disappointing his family, musician Adam wants to surprise his parents and siblings by making the morning coffee. When he knocks the coffee pot off the counter and it shatters, he takes off, not wanting to disappoint his family once again.
He ends up in a restaurant where he meets Marissa, a flight attendant who is on her way to her husband Robbie's family's home in Massachusetts. Robbie is from a wealthy family, and his father is planning a run for governor of the state.
Marissa and Adam bond over breakfast, and she ends up taking him to her husband's family Thanksgiving. Robbie is unsuccessfully trying to make a living as an independent filmmaker, and he resents Marissa being away so much.
His father is often absent, and when he is there is distant. His mother is overbearing and domineering. Sister Laila is home, and Robbie and Laila instantly revert to their childhood roles once back in each other's sight.
Marissa's family life was nothing like Robbie's. She grew up poor, her mother an addict who frequently left Marissa and her younger sister alone, like the time she left them at a McDonald's alone for five hours on Thanksgiving Day when they were just young children.
When Marissa's sister calls and asks her to come spend Thanksgiving with her family at their mother's home, Marissa resists. She'd love to see her sister and niece, but seeing her mother is not something she is ready for.
After Adam tells Marissa about his former girlfriend, the love of his life, she gives him money for a bus ticket to go see her and make amends. But Adam hasn't told her the whole story.
Start Without Me is a sad tale of two people who try to resolve issues in their past that threaten their future. They both are looking to escape the bad knocks life has dealt them, as well as deal with their own bad choices.
Feldman's writing conjures up some vivid imagery, as when Adam dreams of "the texture and resistance of the keys under his fingertips, the beer residue in the metal mesh of the mic on his lips, the bass rumble from the stage through his torso." You can actually feel that as you read it.
Two important things I learned from reading this book: don't ever ask a band to play "Freebird" and do not hit the call button on an airplane to complain that the tarmac delay (or anything else) is "unacceptable". Both are good to know.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Joshua Max Feldman's tour. The rest of his stops are here: