I’m pleased to be sharing my review of And Then There’s Margaret today. Author Carolyn Clarke is the founder of https://henlitcentral.com/, a blog focused on ‘life and lit’ for women over 40. She wrote a great post for me a couple of weeks back called “Forget chick-lit, we need something older!” – you can read that here.
About the Book
Marriage and midlife can be difficult. But when you add a controlling, manipulative and self-absorbed mother-in-law into the mix, things can get worse-much worse. Toxic, even.
When Allison Montgomery’s beloved father-in-law and long-time confidant passes away, her mother-in-law, Margaret, ‘temporarily’ moves in. From rearranging the furniture and taking over the kitchen, to undermining and embarrassing Allie at every turn, including funding her daughter’s escape, throwing a hissy fit at the mall, and publicly equating Allie’s glass of Chardonnay to full blown alcoholism, Margaret turns Allie’s life upside down causing her to bounce between a sincere desire to support her grieving mother-in-law and an intense urge to simply push her out of the nearest window.
Feeling annoyed, trapped and even a little childish, Allie struggles to avoid a complete meltdown with help from her fearless and audacious best friend, a plan for reinventing herself and enjoying a second act, and, yes, a few glasses of Chardonnay. Along the way, Allie discovers the reasons behind Margaret’s attitude toward her all these years. Does it help? Maybe…
Well my goodness, what an truly awful mother-in-law Margaret was! I couldn’t believe how she behaved towards her daughter-in-law Allison. Throughout her marriage she had put her down not just in subtle ways but in very vocal, direct ways too. I don’t know how Allison put up with her all these years and was able to bite her tongue. I would have thought that her husband would have stood up for her but he didn’t seem to see the problem. Margaret’s late husband George must have had the patience of a saint!
I am sure that many women will find much they identify with in Allison. She’s of that sandwich generation, still looking after her adult children to a certain extent and now having to cope with her bereaved mother-in-law living with her, even if only temporarily. I am obviously very fortunate because my mother-in-law is lovely. She does like to wash the dishes and tidy the kitchen when she’s round for tea but I’m certainly not complaining about that. Allison is at that age when she’s starting to experience menopausal symptoms and worrying that she’s not as attractive to her husband as she once was. She’s really experiencing a bit of a crisis of confidence in many aspects of her life, not helped by the constant jibes from Margaret. I liked the little parts at the start of many chapters where Allison expressed how she was feeling to her late father-in-law, rather reminiscent of Judy Blume’s classic novel ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret‘.
And Then There’s Margaret is a relatable read which is very amusing, even though Margaret is a real horror. There is some explanation of why she is the way she is towards the end, but I’m not sure I’d find that excused her awful behaviour. The dynamics of the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship in the book makes this a very entertaining read.
And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke (Black Rose Writing) is available now from Amazon and all good book retailers. My thanks to Hannah Hargrave for sending me a copy for review.
About the Author
Carolyn Clarke is founder and curator of Henlit Central, a blog focused on ‘life and lit’ for women over 40. And Then There’s Margaret is her first novel. She has been an ESL teacher for over sixteen years and has co-authored several articles and resources with Cambridge University Press, Macmillan Education and on her award-winning blog ESL Made Easy. She lives in Toronto, Canada with Tony, her two daughters, and bulldog, Sophie.