Start Without Me
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.
Feldman's second novel, after The Book of Jonah, chronicles a Thanksgiving Day in the lives of recovering alcoholic Adam and flight attendant Marissa. After an embarrassing mishap involving a bungled attempt to make coffee for his family, Adam walks out on his parents and siblings and makes the acquaintance of Marissa at an airport restaurant. Adam has been sober for nine months and is trying to start over as a bank employee, following a life as a successful musician. He misses his former partner Johanna, whose mental problems exacerbated their downfall as a couple and a band. Marissa misses the easy early days with her husband, Robbie, and is now pregnant after a tryst with her high school sweetheart. She sees an opportunity to be distracted when she decides to drive motormouth Adam back to his family, and she feels pity when Adam is distraught after a fight with his sister, leading Marissa to invite him to dinner with her overbearing mother-in-law, Roz, and frosty father-in-law, Leo, who are both wealthy and accomplished. Marissa bristles at the idea of Robbie's parents still supporting them as Robbie pecks away at his screenplay and dismisses her yearning for independence. Feldman nicely demonstrates how well-meaning Adam gets in his own way and how Marissa's hang-ups with class and money lead her to make matters unnecessarily complicated, but falters at constructing Johanna, who exists as the flimsiest outline of a character. An unexpected third act has Marissa trying to make peace with her past while Adam fights off his need for a drink. The novel wraps up a little too neatly, but it is a satisfying story about chance meetings and kinship.