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Book Review: They Called Me Margaret

They Called Me Margaret. Florence Osmund. Self-published, January 31, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 262 pages.

Reviewed by Hallie Koontz.

They Called Me Margaret by Florence Osmund has a plot fit for its mystery writer protagonist: with a neighbor suffering amnesia after a mysterious accident, a husband who acts more suspicious with each passing day, a wayward daughter returning home with a secret, and the imminent launch of a bookstore, Margaret has a lot on her plate—and so does the reader. 

Margaret—known, to her chagrin, as Mags, Maggie, and Madge throughout the book—and her husband, Carl, have just arrived in Lake Beulah, Wisconsin for the summer when their neighbor, Lance, goes missing. He is found in the woods having no recollection of the incident, and, although we have been told that Margaret’s suspicions have been aroused by Carl’s recent behavior before we see it ourselves, this is arguably when the plot threads start being dropped. 

Although the plot threads are all interesting and have a unique effect on Margaret’s life, they start to feel like dead weight after a while. Osmund does a good job of introducing each new thread at key moments, but since these different problems are not forced to interact in interesting, effective ways, the momentum is lost and previous threads that have already been established seem to stop mattering. Margaret comments several times on the strange behaviors exhibited by the other characters, but never seems to want to investigate past her initial observations, which seems a strange choice for a book that markets a mystery—the protagonist’s husband acting similarly to her own book characters—as one of its main plot threads. 

As a slice of life novel, They Called Me Margaret holds up better. There are goals Margaret wants to accomplish that the reader is invested in, and the interpersonal relationships and backstories all have weight to Margaret. But at times it can feel like everyone is against her in a way that frustrates more than causes interesting conflict. The characters can be needlessly argumentative and even ignorant of what Margaret sees as the underlying problem. These communication failures could be their own issue but are not used in a constructive way, and so the original problems continue for longer than they need to, causing conversations to be repeated and the resolutions to be ultimately disappointing. This issue is almost tackled when Margaret faces a health issue later on, but the implication that she was contributing just as much to the earlier problems doesn’t quite ring true. 

Still, They Called Me Margaret comes together for a heartwarming ending. By the time all of the plot threads wrap up, the reader has been through quite a journey with Margaret, and the book does have a wonderful ending line. They Called Me Margaret may fall a little short for readers expecting more mysteries and nuance, but for those wanting a slice of life with vivid characters, it’s worth the read. 


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