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 an odd and at times infuriating book that I can envision sparking vigorous debate at a book club. Annie’s approach to her diagnosis might be read by some as hopelessly romantic and by others as simultaneously passive and patronizing. Similarly, the novel’s resolution --- which I won’t spoil here --- is likely to be fairly divisive.
Medwed (Of Men and Their Mothers) returns with an underwhelming tale of a woman with marital and maternal woes ... plot twists that rely on Annie’s almost pathological unwillingness to examine her life until the well-connected Ursula sweeps her off to New York to see a specialist. Medwed’s tendency to repeat key facts over and over, such as Sam’s depression and Ursula’s selfishness, gives the whole affair an unpolished feel. With a passive protagonist at the center, this is a bit of a slog.
Well-liked in their Maine hometown, [Annie and Sam] came back after college to run a sandwich shop with a sub so popular it's a tourist attraction ... Each chapter of Medwed's first novel in 12 years starts with a quote from the manual—'Women like flowers,' 'Don't let your underwear become tattered,' 'Change the answering machine to your own voice'—and longer excerpts are also included, featuring quite a bit of urging that, as a widower, Sam seek comfort from Annie's lifelong best friend, Rachel. Though the doctor continues to insist she tell both Sam and her mother (a famous actress who's been worthless as a parent and is now, after many husbands, this doctor's girlfriend) and also to please, please consult a specialist for a second opinion, Annie sees no rush. If you're gonna die, you're gonna die. Despite the utter unbelievability of every other plot element, you still end up craving one of those sandwiches.