Book Review: Minus Me (plus personal update)

Minus Me // by Mameve Medwed

Pub Day: January 12, 2021

Publisher: Alcove Press

Synopsis:

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.

My Thoughts:

Despite telling myself that I needed to control my ARC requesting, I just couldn’t not request Minus Me. The premise, while heart-rending, sounded very intriguing and I needed something realistic rather than another fantasy because I have several big fantasy novels coming up soon. Just a few chapters into this book, I felt the heart-break coming on strong. While I found some of Annie’s decisions a little irrational sometimes, I also have to admit that they weren’t so different from some of my recent decisions. Sam is adorable, albeit sometimes exasperating, and I can still understand why she did what she did even though as an outside observer it is easy to know better.

While I had never heard of this author before, I do know that I want to read more of her books in the future. I really enjoyed her writing and how much she made me care about her characters, even Ursula who made me cringe so much in the beginning. This book really shows how not knowing just a few things about someone can hugely influence your opinion of them. While the ending would usually be a bit too tidy for my taste, this once it was actually perfect. After some of my own recent struggles, it was heart-warming to see this book end on such a positive note. It seems this book found me right when I really needed it.

About the Author:

Mameve Medwed is the author of six novels—MailHost FamilyThe End of an ErrorHow Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life (2007 Massachusetts Book Award Honors in Fiction), Of Men and Their Mothers, and Minus Me. 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.

About the Publisher:

Alcove Press is dedicated to publishing upmarket book club fiction that highlights women’s experiences and perspectives, and speaks to the depth and breadth of issues women face in today’s world. It’s a place where readers can go to come to a better understanding of themselves, the world, and their place in it. Their thoughtfully curated list embraces stories of journey, self-discovery, and connection that are accessible, insightful and provocative. Alcove Press celebrates stories from new voices as well as established and bestselling writers who want to inspire, engage and spark meaningful conversations.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Personal Update:

I don’t usually share my reviews this early before the pub day but it just felt like the right time, just like I knew I read this book at the right time once I finished it. This post is about to get a whole lot more personal than my posts usually do but I just felt like I should share this. This blog and the people I have talked to thanks to it and Twitter and Discord have helped me so much this year. They’ve had a huge positive impact on my mental health and I am so thankful for every single one of you.

This is something I shared on Christmas Eve with a little bit of an update at the end…

I know for most people here, Christmas is on the 25th but I grew up in Germany where we celebrate it on the 24th. Ever since moving to the US, Christmas just hasn’t really been the same anymore. It’s on a different day, there’s no snow, and most of all, I don’t get to see my entire family all at once anymore. Sadly, this last one is a familiar reality to many people around the world this year.

While we did cancel my dream wedding, I was still lucky enough to marry my best friend anyways in a small last minute ceremony on our front porch. It wasn’t what we had planned but I haven’t regretted it one bit. I love waking up next to my husband now instead of my fiancé. I’ve always said that a piece of paper shouldn’t make a difference in the relationship itself – and I mostly still feel the same way – but I still love that warm gooey feeling inside anyways when I think of how much more permanent this all feels now.

While I don’t think this is a required step for everyone – I have several friends who are perfectly happy without children in their future and I’m glad they are happy with those decisions – our logical next step was to try for little mini-me (though Juan prefers to talk about little Juans running around). We’ve tried for most of the year without any success and while I was disappointed, I also tried not to stress about it either. It will happen eventually.

After some… unusual activity, I secretly took a pregnancy test on Thanksgiving. And then another the next day. And then I sped off to the emergency room. The unusual activity could mean two different things and I wasn’t any wiser by the end of my visit (the bill isn’t here yet but I’m sure it’ll be humongous even without telling me any useful results – yay US healthcare). My hopes were through the roof but I didn’t want to tell Juan anything yet because there still was the other – negative – possibility. He’s wanted this so badly and I didn’t want to get his hopes up just to dash them soon after.

Now weeks later, we know which way things went. Downhill sadly. I’ve filled Juan in on what’s going on and he has been incredibly supportive even through his own hurt. While most people that have had a miscarriage told me that theirs didn’t last more than a week or two, mine still hasn’t sorted itself out completely after 6+ weeks. I’m tired and my emotions are all over the place some days, especially after the weekly doctor appointments. But I’m so grateful to Juan, my family, and my co-supervisor for the continued support through it all, whether it’s a long hug and comfort food, sweet words, or helping out at work.

Many people know that I’m not a huggy person with most people and I also don’t know how to respond to well-wishes and the like without feeling super awkward. So I’m not telling this because I’m looking for attention. I’m telling this because today is Christmas and I’m not the only one today that feels like a little piece of our little family is missing. There are more people than you think that have experienced this same loss. That is one thing I’ve really learned through this whole ordeal. There are so many women that have told me about their personal experiences. I knew the statistics but it feels so much more real now that there are faces put to the numbers.

Knowing that there are many others with similar experiences though doesn’t make it hurt any less. I personally wish my own doctors would stop citing the statistics at every visit like they didn’t already say the same thing before. I understand where they are coming from. It means I’m not alone and there isn’t anything wrong with me specifically. But it still doesn’t take away from the hurt. So if you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, whether we’re close or not, don’t hesitate to reach out. I won’t quote statistics at you if that’s not what you want. We don’t even have to talk about our experiences at all. But I’m here if you need me. We’ll make it through this.

A little update now…

That day, Christmas Eve, was actually the day I finally stopped bleeding. While it doesn’t hurt any less emotionally, it’s good not to have a reminder every single time I go to the bathroom. I’m sorry if that is TMI but it honestly was one of the hardest things. It’s hard to move on when you see it actively happening several times a day…

Juan and I left on a little trip on the evening of Christmas Day. We canceled our original plan but still went on this one even though it was a little shorter. We had a wonderful time together trying out new restaurants, going to an old favorite, and even just relaxing at this really cute Air BnB that I found for us. On Saturday, I got to teach Juan how to ice skate, which is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. We both fell on our butts but it was so much fun.

That weekend was exactly what we needed together. Our hearts still ache but it was a sweet way to end the year together with just the two of us. We have to wait a few months before we can try for a baby again but we are both looking forward to it – though I can’t lie, I’m also feeling a little anxious about it.

But the most important part is that we will be doing all of this together. We have really grown as a couple this year and I’m excited for the year to come. He has been such a good partner the last few years and I enjoy watching him and us together grow. He has such a kind heart and I can’t wait to see how he will show that in 2021.

Thank you to everyone who has shown us love over the last couple of weeks. I don’t always know how to answer your comments – they make me feel very awkward – but please know that I see and appreciate every single one of them.

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