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Start Without Me: A Novel

Start Without Me: A Novel

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Start Without Me: A Novel

4/5 (8 avaliações)
291 página
8 horas
Lançado em:
Oct 17, 2017


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.

Lançado em:
Oct 17, 2017

Sobre o autor

Joshua Max Feldman is the author of The Book of Jonah. Born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, he has lived in England, Russia, and Switzerland, and currently resides in Brooklyn.

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Amostra do Livro

Start Without Me - Joshua Max Feldman


For Julie, with love


Anyone can save you

Anybody could

A touch of their hand would be enough

If they only would

KISS AND KILL, Any Given Sunday



Title Page



I: Strangers

[ 1 ] The Warshaws’

[ 2 ] Breakfast at Dunks

[ 3 ] The Airport Sheraton in Windsor Locks

[ 4 ] Out Front

II: Family

[ 1 ] The Sonata (Four Movements)

[ 2 ] Walmart and the Gas Station

[ 3 ] The Russells’

[ 4 ] Thanksgiving Dinner

III: Once More, with Feeling

[ 1 ] The Johanna Impromptu on the Way to the Brattleboro Bus Station

[ 2 ] The Lotus Field Apartment Homes

IV: Let’s Start a Band

[ 1 ] Thelonious Monk at the Hungry Panda

[ 2 ] The Warshaws’ (Take 2)


P.S. Insights, Interviews & More . . .*

About the Author

About the Book


Also by Joshua Max Feldman


About the Publisher



[ 1 ]

The Warshaws’

Adam looked up at the basement ceiling, not sure how long he’d been awake. There was no clock in the basement—never had been, for as long as he could remember. He pushed himself up on his elbows. Weak gray light filled the line of slender windows at the top of the wall. He’d been dreaming; something had woken him up. Then he heard the gurgle of a toilet flushing.

A child appeared in the doorway in a corner across from the couch: a boy, five or six, in blue underpants and a Spider-Man T-shirt, dark hair matted on one side, a sour, suspicious look on his face. Who are you? the boy demanded.

I’m Adam, Adam said. "Uncle Adam," he clarified.

The boy shook his head solemnly. My uncle’s Travis. He lives in Texas.

I’m your other uncle. Your dad’s brother.

Why are you on the couch?

Kristen’s—your cousins are sleeping in my room. My old room. What used to be my room. The boy scowled, as though none of this added up, and Adam had to admit it didn’t sound very convincing. Uncle Adam, he repeated. You don’t remember me?

The boy’s eyes narrowed. Are you the uncle who smashed the piñata?

Jesus, that’s what you remember? Did he actually owe apologies to the kids, too?

The candy went all in the—

It was a piñata, it was meant to get smashed. And if they didn’t want me to smash it, they shouldn’t have given me a turn.

The boy made a slow movement of his thumb beneath his chin, which, in the mental squint of just waking, looked to Adam downright menacing, like a mafioso’s throat-slitting gesture. Nobody’s allowed to download mods on my dad’s computer, the boy intoned.

This nonsense alerted Adam to the absurdity of the conversation: The kid didn’t even know he was awake. It’s okay, man, go back to sleep, he said—would have preferred to use something more personal than man, but he wasn’t entirely, entirely sure whether this was Toby or Sam. Still, the child wordlessly obliged. He leaned his shoulder against the wall, padded back into the bedroom, leaving the door open—a gesture Adam found unreasonably touching, as though it were proof the boy didn’t hate him, didn’t fear him, after all.

He lay back down and stared up at the pocked tiles above him. The basement had a lurking, familiar odor: plaster and lavender air freshener locked in combat with something vaguely musty. He remembered what he’d been dreaming of: Music. Playing. Some sense of the sound still filled the corners of his memory—taut, sharp notes, like from a harpsichord, tripping down a thrumming baseline: a half song, half-remembered. Once upon a time, he’d have made the effort to recall it, tried to reach into the cracks between sleep and waking to pull the chimerical sound out—sing it into a voicemail, the way you fixed a butterfly to a board with a pin. Occasionally, what he’d listen to an hour or so later wasn’t even half-bad. More often, though, what he heard was nonsense, and even before he stopped playing he’d concluded that it was a waste of time. He wasn’t actually dreaming of music, he was only dreaming of playing it: 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, and more and more lately that rarest feeling, of getting picked up and carried by the music itself: no more distinction between him and the keyboard, between him and those he played with, between crowd and band, all of them racing along with the same roar—the communion of that, the freedom.

The paisley sheet his mother had made up the couch with had gotten tangled around his thighs in the night. He yanked it up toward his chin, but without much hope of getting back to sleep. The stillness of the house was deafening somehow—like all the sleeping people were vibrating at a frequency only he could hear: his family, ringing in his ears.

He kicked off the sheet and sat up, grabbed his jeans, crumpled on top of his duffel bag, and took out a sweatshirt. He climbed the carpeted stairs as he pushed his arms through the sleeves. Above the rail to his right were taped a dozen or more crayon drawings on white paper: houses and suns, oceans and triangle-sailed boats, violent inchoate swirls that resembled things he’d seen when he dropped acid in the Mall of America before a show in St. Paul. The fridge just isn’t big enough when we all get together! his mother had exclaimed as she’d led him down the night before—as though he were some kind of stranger, as though she were a tour guide, explaining to a foreigner what it was like when they were together. But he reminded himself: If he’d been absent for so long, he had only himself to blame. Fixed on the door at the top of the stairs was more kid art: brown, hand-shaped cutouts of different sizes, with glued-on elaborations (yellow feet, red-orange wattles, plastic googly eyes) to establish that these were turkeys. Happy Thanksgiving! one of his nieces or nephews had written in careful elementary school cursive on a piece of construction paper, masking taped above the doorknob. For some reason, it struck him like an ultimatum.

He opened the door a crack, listened: more tinnitus quiet, no one else was up. He moved as softly as he could down the corridor toward the front hall. When he was a teenager he’d snuck out so often, and apparently so needfully, he’d been able to make this trip without turning on a single light: the twelve stairs up from the basement, left and down this hall to the front door, his hand reaching the knob in the dark by pure muscle memory. Then he’d get into his father’s car, put it in neutral, and roll down to the end of the driveway, only then turning on the engine. And from there it was off to some friend’s or to some agreed-upon clearing in the woods, bottle caps and butts littering the ground like pine needles, or if there was nothing going on he and his friends would drive around the campus of the local state college, hoping to stumble on a party, smoking weed and listening to cassettes of Mudhoney, Guster, Pearl Jam, NWA. He knew he shouldn’t look back on those nights quite so fondly. But he couldn’t help it. Yes, it was drugs-and-alcohol-laden fun—but it was still fun.

He carefully opened the coat closet; the old ski jacket that his mother had pulled from somewhere was hanging next to the blue peacoat he’d worn from San Francisco. Within sixty seconds of his walking in, his mother had declared the peacoat too nice for the game of touch football planned for the following afternoon, and bustled around upstairs until she produced the ancient jacket. He’d tried to tell her he’d bought the peacoat for forty bucks at a thrift store almost a decade ago, and anyway, there was no reason to find an alternative at eleven o’clock at night. But she ignored him, and when she held out the ski jacket, of course he took it, of course he tried it on, and though the synthetic fabric was so stiff with age it was almost sharp, he declared that it was perfect, and thanked her, and thanked her some more. Why? Because he wanted to be agreeable—amenable, he thought as he took his cigarettes from the pocket of the peacoat, zipped up the ski jacket to his throat.

His pair of ratty Converse was on the drip tray amid a double line of neatly ordered Velcros and snow boots. He tied his laces and pulled open the door. And the instant the door parted from the jamb, the cat appeared out of nowhere and slid outside. Fuck! Adam said, making a flailing attempt to grab the animal by its tail as it darted out. He lost his balance and fell on his hip, knocking over the drip tray, one arm stuck outside.

He sat there for a moment, waiting for the whole house to wake up: doors flying open, shouts of alarm. As the quiet continued, he tried to assess what key of crisis, major or minor, this cat situation represented. Was it an outdoor cat or an indoor cat? Had it ever been to the house before? If so, was it allowed to roam the yard? It was Kristen’s family’s cat. Adam could imagine her twin daughters wailing when they heard; he imagined spending the whole day searching the neighborhood for the animal, only to discover its bloody corpse fresh from the maw of some displaced mountain lion or overzealous rottweiler or whatever. In short, the day ruined, and all his fault.

The open door was letting the cold air in; that had to be against the rules. He pulled himself up, went outside and shut the door behind him. With what the cigarette had cost him, he figured he might as well smoke it. And as he lit it and sat down on the top step, there was the cat—perched erect and expectant at his feet, swishing its tail, regarding him as though it were on to him, too: He didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t know how to be an uncle or a son or a brother—not here, not anymore. Not without a drink. The cat sauntered up the steps; Adam opened the door and it vanished inside. Asshole, Adam muttered after it.

And then he smiled, because it was funny he’d called the cat an asshole. The whole thing was kind of funny, if you looked at it the right way: Uncle Adam, freaking out about the cat getting out, but the cat spent lots of time outside! It knew when to go out and come back in. Maybe proving he belonged wasn’t so much a matter of mastering every last rule for who slept where, when the cat was allowed to go out, what to do with the surplus crayon drawings, but rather knowing what it was okay to laugh about. You’ll never believe what happened with me and that fucking cat! he could tell them over breakfast.

He took another pull on the cigarette, blew the smoke upward to try to warm the tip of his nose. The spruce trees at the end of the yard, planted by his parents when he was a kid to block the sight of Parr Street and the McReedys’ garage, were so still in the cold they appeared frozen solid. A bright layer of frost had settled over the grass of the lawn and over the slope of blacktop where the cars were parked: Kristen and her husband Dan’s minivan; Jack and his wife Lizzy’s Tahoe; and last in line the cobalt blue Chevy Adam had rented in Hartford, because he hadn’t wanted anybody to have to come and get him from the airport. They’d offered, everybody’d offered; but again, he’d been trying to be amenable—so amenable they’d hardly notice he was there.

He smacked his fingers against his palms, finally fixed the cigarette at the corner of his mouth and stuck his hands under his armpits. Smoking without your hands was one of the easier things you could learn to do at a piano. He should’ve found a pair of gloves in the closet, though. Even when they weren’t squeezed in his armpits on a freezing New England November morning, the joints of his fingers ached when he first woke up. He’d met an older jazz guy in Miami who’d had to stop playing altogether because of the arthritis. All things considered, though, you had to have a pretty lucky career for arthritis to force you out, and not the mile-below-the-poverty-line money, or the burnout from the road, or the booze and the bars, not to mention all the harder stuff you could get with as little as a mutter to the right promoter, hanger-on, somebody-on-the-bill’s girlfriend. He remembered at a party after a Kiss and Kill show in New Orleans, in some sweltering shotgun crash-house, he’d wandered into a back room and stumbled on a shirtless, comically mulleted guy poking at the thighs of a glassy-eyed redhead, her jeans around her ankles. It took Adam a moment to register the syringe clasped between the dude’s teeth. He looked up at Adam and grinned around the syringe like the fucking Cheshire cat. What about you, amigo? he asked, taking the syringe from his mouth. You’re in the band, you want one on the house? Earlier in the night, he’d introduced himself as a friend of Johanna’s. And maybe he was. You could never guess who her friends would be—where they came from, what they wanted.

Adam couldn’t say whether he’d been too smart, or too scared, or simply plain lucky to have refused that offer—that and the thousand others like it, escaped all those choices even worse than the ones he’d made to make it back here: the steps of his parents’ house, on Thanksgiving morning. The juxtaposition of the two moments—heroin in the back room, the sleepy home on Thanksgiving day—somehow made both of them seem ridiculous, maybe made him seem ridiculous, too, with the clumsily stitched-together persona he’d carried on with for so many years: the rock keyboardist, the nice suburban kid from western Massachusetts.

But what did he care if he’d turned out to be ridiculous? He ought to be thrilled to be nothing worse than ridiculous! And he wished he could explain something like that to Jack, or to his dad, or to any of them—that he was grateful, grateful almost to tears, to be here: sober for nine months and four days (as of this morning), invited back for a family holiday.

From the moment they closed the door behind him, though, it’d been awkward. His mother giggled painfully after she asked him if he wanted anything to drink. His father kept announcing how glad he was to see Adam while clasping his hands together and shaking them in front of his chest, like a politician pleading for racial harmony. The only other person who’d waited up was Jack, and Adam couldn’t help wondering whether his older brother had stayed up on the chance Adam would show up blotto, and they’d need to throw him out. When Adam said after five minutes he was exhausted and just wanted to get some sleep, he could tell they were all relieved.

He put the cigarette out on the bottom of his shoe, slid the butt into the pocket of his jeans. As he opened the door, he saw above it was hammered a strip of sanded wood with the words The Warshaws painted in blocky purple letters. The loneliness he felt looking at that sign was at once so predictable and so unaccountable all he could do was stand there. Then he went back inside.

He took off his sneakers, righted the drip tray and the scattered shoes, hung up the ski jacket, and went into the kitchen. The table was already set up as the children’s table: orange paper tablecloth, paper plates with cartoon Pilgrims, the centerpiece a fan-tailed, leering paper turkey. He surveyed the family photos on the shelves above the sink, images spanning from his and his siblings’ childhoods to the birth of Kristen’s twins. There were a few photos of him playing: a recital when he was six, looking freakishly tiny at the keys of a six-foot grand; the time Kiss and Kill played Late Night in the Conan era. (His mother must have cut the photo to leave Johanna out; pretty tactful, he had to admit.) The most recent photo of him was maybe five years old, some solo show he’d done: his back bent, his face down near the keys, eyes shut, lips curled in concentration: the Artist at Work, or trying to look that way. He’d lost weight since then—his face at thirty-five narrower, the angles of chin and cheek sharper. He had an impulse to hide his pictures behind the others, but his mother being his mother would notice, and he’d have to explain what he’d done. Why should he feel humiliated? she’d want to know. She had the pictures out because they were proud of him (which, of course, was the most humiliating part of all).

He dropped the cigarette butt into the trash can under the sink, and shook the can so the butt jiggled under a banana peel. He pulled opened the refrigerator, looking for he wasn’t sure what. The shelves were stacked with casseroles and tin-foil-covered pots, ready to be reheated. A couple green glass bottles sat wedged in the door: sparkling cider, he saw from the labels. He had a hunch they’d even gotten rid of the cough syrup.

He imagined making himself useful—tidying up, putting away. But everything was spotless: the countertops wiped down, the cereal boxes on top of the fridge lined in descending order. A piece of yellow legal paper was taped to the handle of the dishwasher, on which one of the kids had written Clean! Adam lifted the paper. On the back was Dirty! with some comically grubby plates and glasses, flies buzzing around them in the air. He smiled again. He loved these kids. He didn’t know which one had made the sign, so he felt his love for all of them collectively—felt it as a form of relief. He switched the sign over to Dirty! and opened the dishwasher. But as he took out the first pair of clean plates, he realized he didn’t know where anything went. There was a coffeepot in the top rack; the coffee maker was plugged in on the counter. Okay, this he could do. He could make them coffee. He could fill the house with the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning. Who could object to that?

He took the glass coffeepot from the dishwasher and set it on the counter by the coffee maker, took out the plastic lid and the filter basket. He opened some cupboards, got lucky and found the filters. The coffee was right there in the freezer, like he’d guessed. So far, so good. He slid the filter in the basket, spooned in the coffee grounds, snapped the basket into the coffee maker, and poured in the water. He even imagined himself doing it all with a certain finesse—the practiced grace of his hands. And maybe this idea made him careless, or maybe it was something else, but as he tried to snap the pegs of the lid into the holes of the pot, the pot slipped from his hands. It made a balletic turn on the counter and spun off the edge.

He didn’t even bother to watch whether it broke, only listened, with hope that bordered on prayer. Silence followed the shattering sound. Then he heard from somewhere in the house, Dad! And then the same voice, more desperately, Moooom! And he heard doors opening.

He knew he ought to pick up the larger pieces of glass, find a broom and a dustpan, be there to warn anyone who appeared about the shards and apologize for depriving them all of coffee on a holiday morning. He ought to do a thousand things that real members of a family would do without thinking. But he found he lacked the will to do any of them. He went back to the closet, put on his peacoat, and went outside.

Sunlight was slanting through the needles of the spruce trees. Maybe he should go out and get coffee—that would make up for all of it. Don’t worry, Uncle Adam got coffee from town! Someone would clean up the glass; surely, no barefooted child would step on the pile of glass, need stitches—shit, for all he knew, lose the foot.

This was called catastrophic thinking, he’d been taught at Stone Manor, the Maine rehab he’d been through at the beginning of the year: His mind had a compulsion to seek out the worst possible outcomes. Why did it do that? Harder to say. But the point was, he shouldn’t trust his fear that breaking the coffeepot would lead to one of his nephews losing a foot. He could have another cigarette, and in a minute he’d go back inside and clean up the glass—and explain.

But that was the part he couldn’t summon the energy for: the explanations. Having to say, over and over and over—to Jack and his mother and father and Kristen and Dan and Lizzy and Emma and Carrie and Toby and Sam and the baby whose name he forgot, and hell, to the cat while he was at it—tell them all about his meager hopes of making them coffee, and how with his graceful hands, he’d fucked it up. No, he couldn’t do it. Not after one cigarette, not after a hundred. Not sober.

He dug in the pockets of his peacoat and found the keys to his rental car. He walked across the lawn and got in, put the car in neutral, rolled down the drive, stopped at the bottom of the hill, and started the engine.

[ 2 ]

Breakfast at Dunks

Adam felt terrific as he drove. Turning along the curves of Burnette Road, he plugged his iPhone into the car stereo and

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O que as pessoas pensam sobre Start Without Me

8 avaliações / 20 Análises
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Avaliações de leitores

  • (4/5)
    Pardon me while I compose myself, because this was a really emotional book to read. In fact, because of recent life events, I had to set this aside for a while because it was a little bit too much. Trust me when I say, that's a compliment of the highest order to Joshua Max Feldman. Start Without Me is breathtakingly beautiful. It's a love letter to all the people out there who are holding it together the best they can, while struggling to find their happiness in a world that seems to overlook them. It's all about finding another person, even fleetingly who accepts you and pushes you in equal measures. In other words, Feldman's book is about life. Both the good and the bad.What first struck me about this story was honestly how upset I kept getting at Adam. It's funny how when a character is flawed, perhaps in a way that hits home, you want to scream at them to be more perfect. We expect our characters to make all the right decisions when, in fact, they should be just as human as we are. Adam was definitely rough around the edges. I loved that you could see the earnest, desperate person underneath all of that rough facade though and, eventually, it endeared me to him. When he met Marissa, and I found myself loving her as well, the story really took off for me. These two had such different lives, such different problems, and yet they managed to band together long enough to prop each other up during a difficult time.The dialog in this book was spot on. The snippets of life lessons, spouted again and again because they are what you're supposed to say to people who are struggling struck me hard. However it was the deep conversations that were had in this book, the ones that were messy and emotional, that really did me in. I've always been one of those people who feels the need to fix problems for other people, even while I'm piling up my own problems behind a closed door. Watching Marissa and Adam, two lost people who found one another, continuously do this same thing just pummled me. How do you hide from what you're storing behind that door, when the person you're trying to help keeps opening it up? Argh. I'm still thinking about some of the scenes in this book.Long story short, if you want to read something that is perfect and happy this isn't the book for you. However if you want to read something beautiful, gritty, and full of hope, then Start Without Me should absolutely be on your reading list. It's the kind of read I think a lot of people need around the holidays, and I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to read it. It wasn't an easy read, but it was a necessary one.
  • (4/5)
    It's Thanksgiving day. Two strangers, whose lives' are train wrecks, strike up an unlikely conversation in an airport restaurant. Adam is 9 months sober, a former talented keyboardist in a band, estranged from his family. Marissa is a stewardess, who cheated on her husband and doesn't know how to save her marriage. She offers to give him a lift on her way home and their holiday adventure begins. An earnest look at family, dreams and expectations and how hard it is to be your best self.
  • (3/5)
    It's Thanksgiving Day and two strangers stumble into each others' lives and each others' demons. Adam, former musician and recovering alcoholic, cannot face his suburban family. Marissa, pregnant from a one-night stand with an ex, is struggling with her situation, her husband, and his wealthy and demanding family. Alcoholism and the residual effects of poverty and loneliness are stark on this holiday of togetherness. This book was sadder than it's marketing suggested. While it sometimes felt a little implausible and overwrought, it was an engaging read and did contain a few surprises.
  • (4/5)
    I'll say up front that I liked this book. The plot is familiar. Two young people return to their respective families for Thanksgiving.Traditionally, this story describes a recovered, mature individual who returns to the dysfunctional family that made their life miserable. This plot line is turned on it's head. The interesting part is how the author describes how his characters react as they begin to see the reality of their family relationships. There is no big transformation but they are different people when they leave.
  • (4/5)
    I requested this book because of a mistake. Several years ago, I read The Book of Jonas by Stephan Dau, so being old enough to get away with brain farts where names are concerned, I thought, "Oh great, another book by the same author!" Turns out, Joshua Max Feldman actually wrote the Book of JonAH! Anyway, I found it a bit ironic that I stumbled on this book by mistake. The characters in this funny yet intense family drama meet and face life changing moments by chance themselves. Adam is a former musician, recently sober and trying to succeed as a buttoned down banker. His years of addiction have taken their toll on his parents and siblings. Marissa is a flight attendant who grew up poor with an addict for a mom. She has married into a well-to-do political family that hasn't made her feel welcome and has just learned she is pregnant after a brief fling with a former boyfriend. Adam and Marissa meet by chance in an airport cafeteria on that most perilous of family holidays, Thanksgiving, as each prepares to deal with their respective families. The entire novel takes place in just that single day, yet provides enough drama to last a year! I am glad I stumbled upon this novel, and would recommend it for fans of Jonathan Tropper.
  • (4/5)
    What would holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas be without family drama? This book covers one Thanksgiving Day in the lives of Adam and Melissa, two strangers who meet on this more-than-stressful-for-them day.Adam is working in a bank and trying to live a sober life. He had been quite a successful musician but the life on the road and a broken love has led him to alcohol abuse. He hasn’t spent a Thanksgiving with his family in years and although this is the year he really wants to try, he’s not sure he’s strong enough to get through the day without messing things up again.Melissa is a flight attendant who has married into a rich family that she’s never felt a part of. She and her husband have had some recent difficulties and she knows a holiday with his family will be a stressful one. Plus the secret she’s carrying is a difficult one to deal with.I had my reservations about this book at first. I didn’t immediately connect with the characters and thought it was just going to be a road-trip book with two unlikeable characters trying to sort out their family issues. And actually that’s what it is. But it’s the mark of a talented author who can take that type of premise and turn it into such an emotional journey for the reader. The author writes with a realism that is completely believable and human. I realized that I didn’t have to like these characters or understand their decisions in life to connect with them. Their humanity touched me. This author knows how to twist his characters around his readers’ hearts.Recommended.
  • (3/5)
    Thank you to LibraryThing for the ARC of Start Without Me.Start Without Me is the story of two unhappy strangers that meet in an airport lounge on Thanksgiving Day. Adam is a recovering alcoholic who has gone home to have dinner with his family but finds himself unable to cope and leaves early Thanksgiving morning before they all get up. Marissa is a flight attendant who grew up poor with a single alcoholic mother who often abandoned her children so that she could drink. She has married into a wealthy family but is now pregnant after a one night stand with a former boyfriend. They form a bond as they first travel together to her husband's family for dinner and then later back to his. The premise of the story was good but it was slow to take off. When it did take off it would then hit lulls that made me not want to continue reading. I never connected with either character and I found the passages about the music hard to swallow.
  • (3/5)
    A fast paced read about two unhappy people trying to figure out how they got to be where they are and where they want to go from here. The plot is a bit predictable but the dialogue spices it up a bit. I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher via LibraryThing's Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review
  • (3/5)
    Given that I am not the intended audience for this book - having OD'd on reading about both recovering and relapsing alcoholics and the angst of abortion vs. giving birth - it was still hard for to connect or care about any of the main characters in any real way.The casual mention of cruelty to animals (cow tipping) and "a butterfly to a board with a pin" could be deleted along with "pissing" since neither adds anything to the plot.Writing is decent and improves with dialogue lightening up the predictable plot.Wish there was more of this memorable quote:"If anything, though, the sweeping brightness as he got out of the car only made the morning seem colder -as if the sunlight carried its own form of chill." Way cool.
  • (3/5)
    This was an easy read that took place over the course of one day, Thanksgiving, a time that is fraught with emotion and family drama. The two main characters, Marissa and Adam, meet by chance but quickly become intertwined in each other's lives. Both have a lot going on and end up needing each other more than one would think after a chance encounter at a random hotel lobby. This was an interesting, quick read and I would recommend it.
  • (4/5)
    Feldman's second novel is not very similar to his Book of Jonah. In Start Without Me, he gives us two unhappy people: Adam, a recovering alcoholic who cannot face Thanksgiving with his family, and Marissa, a married flight attendant who is travelling to spend Thanksgiving with her in-laws, pregnant from a one-night stand. The two meet in an airport lounge and support one another through the many challenges of the day. Feldman touches on family, marriage, independence, and meaning, but mostly skims the surface of these themes. The book is a fun read, but it feels as if it could have been more.
  • (4/5)
    Rather contrived train wreck-reminiscent story of a flight attendant and an alcoholic ex-musician who meet at a Connecticut airport hotel, the ex-musician fleeing from a family Thanksgiving (after breaking a coffee pot--but he has more issues than that), the flight attendant dreading the one she is about to drive to, and with quite a secret to hide from her husband. Of course, they end up together in her car as he decides to try again with his family, and of course, they happen to be right on the way. And they both give up all their secrets to each other--well, not exactly all as you'll see. There are lots of enjoyable scenes here, truly horrific human behavior, some affecting moments of tenderness, and a whole lot of over-the-top events and writing. In the end is turns out to have been worth the trip, but this is not a classic by any means, although the back cover does claim it will "leave its indelible mark on your heart." But an indelible mark on your heart might be something you need to talk to your doctor about....
  • (3/5)
    This was not a story to which I could easily relate. I was put off by foul language that really wasn't necessary. Dysfunctional family situations were rather bizarre to me as well as the trust that seemed to exist between two strangers. It wasn't until the last 50 pages or so that I became slightly engaged - or did I just want to get to the end? Unfortunately, not a satisfying book on any level for me.
  • (3/5)
    Family can be a mixed blessing, especially around the holidays. The things that we love and hate come into high definition during days like Thanksgiving, with its lofty expectations of family harmony and togetherness. And in fact, the expectations can be impossible to meet, especially when people come to the feast with the burden of past baggage or secrets weighing them down. Joshua Max Feldman's new novel, Start Without Me, tells the tale of two strangers, their two different Thanksgivings, and how they come together in their despair as they struggle with where they are in life.Adam, a former musician who is struggling to maintain his hold on sobriety, is home for Thanksgiving for the first time in years but he is spooked by the thought of his whole family around him and when he accidentally breaks the coffee pot before anyone else wakes up, he flees the house and heads for the airport to go home, away from all the disappointment he exudes like a cloud. Marissa is a flight attendant, lingering in the airline's day room rather than get on the road to spend her short layover at her wealthy in-laws' home. Her in-laws have never really liked her, the poor daughter of an alcoholic mother. The fact that her marriage is faltering and she's pregnant from an uncharacteristic one night stand with her old high school boyfriend, ratchets up her dread of the coming ordeal. Procrastinating just a bit longer, she stops for coffee in the airport hotel's restaurant, which is where she meets Adam. They are two tired, worn out strays who recognize the despair and loneliness in each other and connect despite the incredible unlikeliness of that connection. As they meet up over and over again during the course of the day, each trying to work through their emotional pain, to confront the demons haunting them, and to keep the weight of their pasts and past mistakes from drowning them, they are slowly moving towards an understanding and acceptance of their separate futures.Neither Adam nor Marissa are particularly likable characters. They are sad and flawed and their respective weaknesses are on display throughout the entire novel. They desperately need to find the small kindnesses each offers the other because they cannot, or won't, find kindness from others around them. There is no grace for the ordinary traumas of their lives. A pervading feeling of disappointment threads through the novel and Adam and Marissa are clearly worn down and defeated themselves. The story is quite slow moving, mostly character driven, and split into two clear halves. The first half is slightly less serious than the second, at least in part because Adam and Marissa's painful histories, the unhapppiness and choices that formed them gradually comes out and because the reader sees each of them interact with family, confirming for the reader what each has said about their chances for a decent holiday, all in the second half. Adam's sister is (understandably) angry and frustrated and unforgiving with him while Marissa's in-laws are (not understandably) as hateful and dismissive of her as she thinks. While the novel feels authentic and realistic, it is also painful and depressing and the slightest glimmer of hope in the end isn't enough to make the reader feel as if these two characters can overcome everything stacked against them. This is not a happy families holiday story. It is not a romantic tale of serendipitous meeting. It is the tough and doleful tale of two damaged human beings who cross paths briefly amid the somber wreckage of the holiday, perhaps each other's lifeline or perhaps just a chance meeting.
  • (4/5)
    If you have seen the Sofia Coppola film "Lost in Translation" you already know the basic plot outline of Joshua Max Feldman's new novel "Start Without Me": A man and woman, who under ordinary circumstances would have little in common, temporarily discover in each other the only person with whom they can communicate and reveal their true selves.In the movie, the lonely pair are stuck in Japan, relieved to find another American to talk with. In the book, the two people meet on Thanksgiving, which in its own way can produce loneliness in some people.Adam was once a promising musician whose career was cut short by alcoholism, which also contributed to his strained relationship with his family. Now recovering, he returns East to spend the holiday with relatives. It does not go well, and within hours he flees into the cold, not sure what he will do next.At the airport he meets Marissa, a flight attendant with problems of her own. She is on her way to spend Thanksgiving with her husband and his family. But she has been unfaithful with an old boyfriend and has just learned she is pregnant. She doesn't want to get an abortion, but her husband is black and the boyfriend is white. To add to her stress, her father-in-law has political ambitions and has had a private investigator tailing her, so he already knows about the boyfriend. When she visits her mother, herself an alcoholic, the situation proves even worse than what she encounters at the home of her in-lawsAdam and Marissa spend most of the day together, revealing to each other both the best and worst truths about themselves. Feldman manages to make it believable that, no matter how many times the two part, they always somehow come together again. He describes them as "a couple of strays." They are two people loose with nowhere to go on a day when everybody is supposed to be somewhere.
  • (3/5)
    I loved this description of this book and wanted to immediately read it once I got my hands on it. However, this book is anything but hilarious as the description states. It's a really sad story of Marissa and Adam and the way their lives are not what they want. I really like the general idea of what this book is and the story they were telling, but I think there was a lot of filler in it and I really wish that there was some actual humor in it. I also wish you found out what happens with their lives... it sort of just ends. Overall the book was OK, but it is depressing - so don't think you'll be laughing out loud.
  • (4/5)
    Adam is nine months sober and home for Thanksgiving for the first time in a while. He wakes up in his parents basement and decides he just can't face the holiday or family after all the failed attempts in the past. He heads to the airport and there he meets Marissa. Marissa is a flight attendant who made a mistake one night and now has to face how it will affect her marriage. She's on the way to her in-law's house, and her husband, to partake in a tension filled Thanksgiving dinner (aren't most Thanksgiving family dinners tension filled though?). After meeting, the two discover the comfort of telling a complete stranger your woes. What ensues is a road trip, an unlikely friendship and some sad, funny and completely believable family encounters for both of them. They both discover they need to re-evaluate what they want and need from the lives they have chosen. I really enjoyed this story and found the characters and the depiction of a recovering alcoholic and family issues all true to form. Oh no, Thanksgiving isn't very far off...
  • (3/5)
    What family story can be told that hasn't been told before? I'm guessing there is none, especially those revolving around holidays...throw in some infidelity, rehab, tenuous sobriety, and political aspirations and you have some dysfunction stew. Marissa and Adam are the main characters in this book, chance acquaintances that probably wouldn't have exchanged names had it not been for the holiday. That is was Thanksgiving was a bit ironic, but that was probably the point. I think to really enjoy this book you have to really like or identify with one of the two main protagonists...without that it is just a flounder. I found myself caring about them much in the same way they cared for each other: rather casually but full of curiosity. Would make a fine beach read.
  • (5/5)
    Two lost souls meet in a hotel coffee shop on Thanksgiving morning and try to avoid spending time with their families. I know that doesn't sound like much fun, but this novel is amazing. Adam is a recovering alcoholic who has come home to spend Christmas with his family for the first time in years. He is so afraid of letting them down, that he is unable to face them. Marissa is a flight attendant who has a few hours in which to drive to her in-laws for dinner before another flight. She has two major problems: her in-laws despise her, and she has just found out she is pregnant with a baby that is not her husband's. Adam and Marissa form a sort of misfit friendship and, as they travel through the day, they learn more about each other. As one misfit to another, it is much easier to reveal these painful episodes and to accept the weaknesses and flaws in the other person, There is a dark humor in this book and a an indomitable hopefulness through the sadness. The writing is beautiful with phrase that make you stop and marvel at their craftsmanship. I would highly recommend this book.
  • (3/5)
    Adam is nine months sober and still fighting for every day of it. He's attempting his first family event in a long time, and it doesn't go well. Flight attendant Marissa is the daughter of an alcoholic, and struggling with her own life choices, both good and bad. She's attempting her husband's family gathering for Thanksgiving, and it doesn't go well either. And there you have pretty much the entire story. I found the characters to be lightly drawn on the page, and neither drew me in much at all. I found the conflicts to be contrived and over-dramatic, and couldn't really bring myself to care how they got resolved, or what choices the characters made. The book does zip along, and isn't poorly written, but it does lack that je ne sais quoi that engages me as a reader.