*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
2018 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
Blurb: Margaret Manning has spent the better part of her life conforming to the expectations of other people—first her father, then her husband. To break from this tradition, she becomes a writer of cozy mysteries and is in the process of living out her dream of opening her own bookstore—The Indie Book Nook—featuring self-published authors. But when she perceives her husband is behaving similarly to some of the unscrupulous characters in her books, she fears that she will lose him or—maybe even worse—that she is losing her mind.
While abandonment is nothing new to Margaret—she hasn’t seen or heard from her mother since she was six years old—the fear of losing her husband is devastating. As she struggles to find the strength to mend her shattered marriage, she must also cope with her obscure health issues, her daughter’s precarious behavior, a disingenuous neighbor, and an unpredictable mother-in-law.
Who in her life is a friend and who is more of a foe is not always apparent, and it’s up to Margaret to figure it all out.
This is an unusual book, as it seems to flow between genres and styles as the story progresses. We start with a typical mystery setup of mysterious things happening to our title character, and then the disappearance of a neighbour. Gradually the suspense tone lightens as we meet a motley of friends and family with comedic potential – the bitter mother-in-law, the adult daughter out to ‘find herself’, the flighty neighbour and so on. There is even a hint of a potential romantic interest!
As you read the book however, the gap between what you are told and what you perceive slowly widens to uncomfortable proportions and the reader is faced with the problem of who to believe when everyone appears to be behaving suspiciously and you can’t trust your own intuition.
Because this is not really a ‘genre’ story at all, despite Margaret’s own proficiency in that arena. This is a story about family and about trust, communication and support. It is about aging and parenting, marriage and friendship. The main focus is Margaret herself. We see through her eyes and hear through her ears, but put our own interpretations on events and make our own judgements about who is persecuting her into a state of constant stress. I found the character of Carl particularly baffling throughout the novel – his actions and motivations seemed totally erratic and incomprehensible – however it became clear that this was because Margaret didn’t understand him. No shortage of subtle and clever characterisation here!
The ending was unexpected but fitting, and I liked how certain aspects came full circle despite how far the characters had moved on. Even though the story concluded I felt the closing vignette left the door open for the author to revisit Margaret and co at a future point to see how they are all getting on.
(I will just finally note that I LOVE the idea of The Indie Book Nook, and wish there was one near me! Self-published books, refreshments and animal companionship…bookworm heaven!)
Earlier in the day, I had nearly lost it when I couldn’t find the pocket watch – one of the few things I’d had of my mother’s – engraved with the words TIME IS A GIFT. It appeared to be old, like maybe it had belonged to someone else before my mother.
The previous summer, when my silver bracelet went missing, I thought I must have been careless with it. And then when I couldn’t find the Eiffel Tower Limoges box containing one pearly earring, I figured my memory wasn’t what it used to be. But the third missing item – the pocket watch – caused me to think differently, that either I was losing my mind, or someone wanted me to think I was.
– Florence Osmund, They Called Me Margaret
They Called Me Margaret is available on Amazon right now!