START WITHOUT ME by Joshua Max Feldman

START WITHOUT ME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It’s Thanksgiving, and two 30-something strangers—“a couple of strays”—join forces to help each other survive the family dramas that lie ahead.

Adam Warshaw, nine months and four days sober, wants to spend the holiday with his parents and siblings after many years of absence but still doesn’t seem quite capable of going through with it. Flight attendant Marissa Russell, struggling with work and a secret pregnancy, needs to join her in-laws for the Thanksgiving meal while simultaneously trying to mend her fraying marriage. When Adam’s and Marissa's paths cross in an anonymous Connecticut hotel restaurant (he’s decided to flee back to San Francisco; she’s heading to her family), the familiar scenario underpinning Feldman’s (The Book of Jonah, 2014) readable second novel is set in motion: Adam changes his mind again and the pair set off on a drive to Vermont, hitting problems en route and alternately propping each other up until resolution can be found. If the conventions of this time-honored holiday dramedy formula are simmering tensions, bad behavior, black-sheep tendencies, and bedrock truths revealed, so it goes with these two: Adam’s family struggles to welcome him back into the fold, while Marissa’s in-laws, an improbable mixed-race group marked by political aspirations and short tempers, offer the antithesis of a warm embrace. Incorporating psychology and a musical back story, Feldman’s novel aims high but loses its momentum, spending too much time looking backward and indulging the central characters’ internal monologues. The road-trip narrative line becomes ragged, and sketchy secondary characters offer little engagement. The overriding questions in Thanksgiving entertainments are usually: can mistakes be corrected, new leaves turned, and survival ensured? The answers here will not come as any great surprise.

A new recipe for turkey? Not quite.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-06-266872-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2017




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