Friday, July 2, 2021

Review: Minus Me by Mameve Medwed

Passamaquoddy, Maine. Famous, at least to me, because of Pete's Dragon, the movie from the late seventies. It's also the setting for Mameve Medwed's sweet, easy novel about love, death, and what's most important in life.

Annie is married to Sam, her high school sweetheart, and together they own Annie's Samwich Shop, a locally famous eatery. Sam, despite his goofy incompetence at tasks most adults can accomplish with their eyes shut, has been there for Annie always, supporting her after her beloved father died and grieving with her through miscarriages and the still birth of their daughter. But when Annie receives a diagnosis of possible terminal lung cancer, she cannot bring herself to insist her husband have a serious discussion with her about her health, deciding to tell him only after her future appointment with a specialist. Instead of telling him about the grim diagnosis, she starts writing him an instruction manual called Life Minus Me: A User's Guide so she can know he'll be able to navigate everyday life without her. She hides the manual in her underwear drawer where her flamboyant, overbearing actress mother, Ursula, in town to receive an award, finds it. Their relationship is more antagonistic than anything else, with Annie frustrated by what she sees as her mother's constant narcissism, but when Ursula pulls strings to get Annie into a hot shot oncologist in NYC, Annie agrees to go to the city with Ursula without telling Sam what is going on. The trip, which extends longer than planned and results in more answers than expected, gives Annie and her mother time to work toward understanding and reconciliation with each other as well as a change in perspective for Annie.

The story of a woman given a terrible diagnosis and deciding to help her husband out once she is gone is not new. It's not even fiction if you've seen the news in the past few years. But for as long as Annie and Sam have been together, her inability to ask him to comfort her in this scary time is troubling and his continued incompetence (or is it enabled haplessness?) is not cute. They, and their marriage, come off as far more immature than their ages would assume. There is some conflict here, between Annie and her mother and Annie and Sam, based in large part on misunderstandings but everything is a little too easy, too tidy, and all ends are tied up neatly in the Hallmark-y epilogue. The writing is well done but somehow Annie and Sam don't inspire the laughter and tears that they should. Or maybe it's me being too cynical for the heartwarming, happily ever after. ::shrug:: I suggest you read it yourself and see if you agree with me.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

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