Minus Me by Mameve Medwed was a beautifully written story that navigated loss, fixing relationships, and even locally famous Paul Bunyan sandwiches (which ps, how can get I get one of those?!) Rating: 4/5
Read the book the Jodi Picoult calls “a timely reminder that in the worst of times, we sometimes rediscover the very best of ourselves” and Elinor Lipman says is “smart, funny-quirky, and so very satisfying.”
Her life turned upside down by a grim diagnosis, a small-town Maine woman sets about writing a “How To” life manual for her handsome yet hapless husband in a novel Elinor Lipman (Good Riddance, On Turpentine Lane) calls “smart, funny-quirky, and so very satisfying.”
Annie and her devoted but comically incompetent childhood sweetheart Sam are the owners and operators of Annie’s, a gourmet sandwich shop, home to the legendary Paul Bunyan Special Sandwich–their “nutritionally challenged continual source of income and marital harmony and local fame.”
But into their mostly charmed marriage comes the scary medical diagnosis for Annie–and the overwhelming challenge of finding a way to help Sam go on without her. Annie decides to leave Sam step-by-step instructions for a future without her, and considers her own replacement in his heart and their bed. Her best-laid plans grind to a halt with the unexpected appearance of Ursula, Annie’s Manhattan diva of a mother, who brings her own brand of chaos and disruption into their lives.
Minus Me is a poignant and hilarious novel about the bonds of marriage, the burdens of maternal love, and the courage to face mortality, “with an ending readers will cherish (Caroline Leavitt, Pictures of You).”
“Medwed’s lovely novel of marriage, motherhood, love and loss is so real that at times it feels like non-fiction. It’s a timely reminder that in the worst of times, we sometimes rediscover the very best of ourselves.” –Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light
Praise for Minus Me:
Elinor Lipman (Good Riddance, On Turpentine Lane) calls Minus Me “smart, funny-quirky, and so very satisfying.”
Jodi Picoult writes that “Medwed’s lovely novel of marriage, motherhood, love and loss is so real that at times it feels like non-fiction. It’s a timely reminder that in the worst of times, we sometimes rediscover the very best of ourselves.”
Despite the more serious topics of the book, Minus Me was a thoroughly enjoyable read, maybe even pleasant. Mameve did a beautiful job of describing the small town of Passamaquoddy, and their famous Paul Bunyan sandwiches. Each line was beautifully written and descriptive, and I could really imagine each scene easily. The concept of the plot is interesting – a wife having a health scare and facing the fear and helplessness of a world where she would no longer exist to take care of the people and things she loves. I liked the different post-it note reminders at the start of each chapter, and I loved the idea of creating a manual in which her spouse should continue to live his life. While Annie and Sam were far more co-dependent than any relationships I know of, it made for an even more interesting dynamic when imagining a world in which Sam doesn’t have Annie to rely on.
I really enjoyed Minus Me, and my only big issue was that I felt the dialogue was unrealistic. Other than her mother, Ursula, all of the characters talked in the same voice and tone. A voice that was not how I’ve ever heard anyone speak before in casual conversation. Even Ursula, with her snobby tone and random French phrases, didn’t seem entirely genuine. All of the conversations were so serious. They all used big, SAT style words that did not sound conversational at all, and they all seemed to talk with an air of…. superiority? It didn’t matter if it was a “bad boy” character or a 16 year old girl. They all just sounded the same. It was hard to feel close to any of the characters, and then worry about what happened to them, because they just didn’t come off as real.
Even with all of that said, it didn’t take away from the story at all. I found myself wanting to see what would happen with Annie and her medical diagnosis, and wanting them all to live happily ever after. Something, I’m happy to say, they did. While the book navigated through topics like loss, fertility issues, cancer, infidelity and strained parental relationships, it was still always pleasant. This is not a book that you need to worry about reading near a box of tissues. Despite the heavier topics, they’re written in a fairly breezy way. Right after I finished the book I wrote this on Goodreads to remind me of my feelings immediately after finishing – “A constant lesson in what not to do – be more communicative, forgive past grudges, be more understanding of your parents, and for fucks sake don’t jump to conclusions. ” Without giving anything away, these lessons hold true. The story did a great job of showing a character doing a lot of things she shouldn’t do, and in that teaching her and the reader some really valuable lessons.
If you’re interested in reading my GoodReads updates from this book you can do so here. It will tell you exactly what I was thinking on certain pages.
About The Author:
Mameve Medwed is the author of six novels—Mail, Host Family, The End of an Error, How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life (2007 Massachusetts Book Award Honors in Fiction), Of Men and Their Mothers, and Minus Me(coming January 2021). Her short stories, essays, and book reviews have appeared in, among others, The New York Times, Gourmet, Yankee, Redbook, Playgirl, The Boston Globe, Ascent, The Missouri Review, Confrontation, The Readerville Journal, Newsday, and The Washington Post. She has taught fiction writing for many years at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education, has been a mentor in the writing program at Lesley University, read papers for the English Department at Simmons College, and has taken part in writing festivals across the country, serving on panels and teaching seminars. She has been interviewed on Maine Public Radio, The Voice of America and other radio and TV programs and has been profiled in many newspapers.
Born in Bangor, Maine, where she is considered Bangor’s other writer (Stephen King holds the title!), she resides in Cambridge.
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