Book Review: Start Without Me
Synopsis: 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.
My review: 3 stars.
I always enjoy reading novels that are about family dynamics because they are always so fascinating and layered with interesting characters. This book does not disappoint in that way. Both characters that we get to know in-depth, Marissa and Adam, are deeply flawed, but fascinating. They aren’t entirely likable, but they aren’t depicted as horrible human beings either.
Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I always wonder about these “strangers meeting” novels where two people’s lives come together from a happenstance meeting. I don’t think I could ever meet a person and connect with them so well in a few minutes that I’d invite them to my Thanksgiving with family.
A lot of the Thanksgiving family drama of this book reminded me of one of my favorite ( and one of the few) movies about Thanksgiving, Home for the Holidays. It’s a Holly Hunter movie from the 1990s where Hunter’s character goes to her family’s Thanksgiving in her hometown after many years away. It’s about love, family, and all the mess that comes on Thanksgiving.
Fun thing about reading this book was I took it with us on our Vermont long weekend getaway to Brattleboro, so imagine my surprise when it turns out that Marissa is on her way to in-laws’ Thanksgiving right outside of the same place!
As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.