Etta

Review: Minus Me (ARC)

Expected publication: January 12th 2021, 336 pages

Author: Mameve Medwed

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.

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.

What would your next steps be after getting a grim medical diagnosis? This novel sets out to show one woman’s journey to what happens after she receives some terrible news and how she moves forward. Annie Stevens-Strauss seemingly has it all with a thriving business and a seemingly perfect marriage.  She lives in small town Maine and owns her own sandwich shop that she shares with her husband Sam called Annie’s Samwich. Her husband is a little clueless about life and Annie wouldn’t have it any other way. Now with her news in her mind, she now has to determine just how will he and the business get by if one day she is not there.

This book attempts to take a humor approach to a subject that typically would be tear-inducing as a loved one might have to face the world without their romantic partner. It was an amazing premise that attracted me to read this novel and unfortunately it just didn’t quite sit right as I didn’t like either main character. No matter how hard I tried, Annie annoyed me and Sam just never fully came together and grew as a character how I would have expected. The novel explicitly states that Annie’s marriage is perfect (to her) and that there are no faults to be found, but within less than a chapter there are tons of red flags regarding their communication with each other. It’s as if Annie has never watched a movie, read a book, or has become aware of the fact that nothing good as ever come from keeping information from their loved ones for the sake of protecting them.

To aid Sam into the possibility of getting through the rest of his life without her, Annie sets out to write a manual that includes all the random pieces of information that she thinks will be relevant along with instructions of the next steps. She has ideas for him to move on with the business and his love life. The light-heartedness of the manual’s entries were very entertaining as it makes the reader start to wonder what they would include in their own version of a life manual for those they leave behind in case anything happens to them. Sure, there are wills, but that’s not for how to move forward with the day to day. It was a fantastic concept that drew me to read this book, but it gets overshadowed a lot by the characters and their faults.

After visiting her daughter, Annie’s mother Ursula (a famous actress) makes her appearance and becomes a major character as she whisks Annie off to New York to see different specialists using her connections (this made me envious as I wish I had those kind of connections if I ever needed them in the future). Not only does Annie get a chance to visit with a new medical team to further explore her diagnosis, she also gets a chance to explore the high life that her mother leads while sight-seeing and playing tourist in New York. It was nice to see Annie and her mom grow as a mother-daughter team as their relationship is portrayed as strained when told through Annie’s perspective.  I honestly could not see how Ursula was a “bad” parent and warranted Annie not fully being on board with her mother. Sure, her mother was over-the-top and went 100-miles-per-minute, but there were no indications that she had any negative traits so it was hard to fully grasp any strain in her and Annie’s relationship (other readers might interpret it differently as this is just how I read the story).  I get that Annie had lower self-esteem, but it seems at some point you need to sort of get over it, especially when it’s against your own mother and you also have so many good things going on in your own life (again other readers might think differently).

Overall, it’s a very easy to read novel that flows well from the time of the diagnosis to the ending. The events are believable and the thought process behind everything is relatable as some people would act like these characters, even if it’s not exactly how other readers would (myself included). The author wraps up everything nicely so you’re not left with too many unanswered questions at the end. Although, there were many pieces that weren’t my cup of tea, I still enjoyed reading this novel and got through it relatively quickly. As others might interpret the characters and relationships a little differently, I would encourage other readers to give this novel a try and to formulate their own opinions.

**Thank you to BookSirens and Alcove Press for an ARC to read and enjoy. Opinions expressed are completely my own.**

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