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John McCann, a man who judges life by the tally of an accounts ledger, has a supreme goal in life: To achieve, live, and enjoy the rarified executive lifestyle. But he’s encountered one problem: The migraines are going to continue to get worse unless you make some major changes in your lifestyle. What you need is a ‘sea change’… Perhaps buy a nice little business in the country, settle down, something easier to occupy your time…
While John knows the doctor is right, he just can’t resign from the job he’s fought so hard for. He decides the sacrifice of taking a year’s leave of absence won’t interfere too much with his plans, and so he finds himself running Margins, a cozy little bookstore, with the help of the former owner’s son, Jamie. John expects to put in his year, get his stress under control, and then get back to business.
What John doesn’t expect is how Margins and its denizens draw him in, particularly the quiet, disheveled man who takes refuge in the old leather chair in the second-hand book section. John’s plans for an unattached year of simple business crumble when he meets David and is forced to reevaluate life, love and what he really wants from both. John and David are forced to come to terms with their pasts as they struggle to determine what possible future they might build together
I had high hopes for A Note in the Margin. I mean, it’s set in a BOOK STORE. I love books! It takes place in Australia. I love Australia! The MCs are an intense business man and a troubled transient. I love angst and lost causes! But even with all those morsels, the story fell short for me.
John is stressed to the max and decides to leave his job as a corporate badass to run a tiny book shop called Margins in Melbourne. With the store he inherits the former owner’s son, Jamie, as a helper, and a homeless man, David, who hangs out in the back and reads books all day.
At first, John finds himself crushing on Jamie, and then, even though he’s completely irritated by David’s presence in Margins, John develops an attraction to David. It felt off to me that John wanted to immediately jump into the sack with Jamie, and the affection toward David alternated between hot and cold. At times John was inexplicably mean to David, and at others it was as if David was his other, better half.
For his part, we learn David is a hot mess of mental illness. He’s haunted by his past and a family he’s left behind, and he’s understandably timid about forming personal connections with anyone.
Then, boom. Out of nowhere we find that John has…a GIRLFRIEND. Huh?!? Even though she makes an appearance and is mentioned a couple of times in the book, the relationship is never fully fleshed out or properly resolved.
The language in A Note in the Margin is choppy and simple, and the switching point-of-views had my head spinning. (Truly, from paragraph to paragraph, I wasn’t always sure whom I was hearing from.) I also found the story to be repetitive in places.
MCs John and David begin believing they’re in love, but have yet to have a deep, significant conversation with one another, which brings me back to David. It took almost the entire novel for me to learn his story. It was frustrating to read about him falling into his same patterns of behavior over and over and have no idea of what was inside his head. My heart broke for David, SO HARD, but I wish I’d had a better understanding of him sooner in the story!
For me, A Note in the Margin dragged to its conclusion, and even though there was resolution at the end, I felt David was still so fragile, so I doubted the strength of his ongoing recovery (I’m pretty sure all the other characters in the book were on the same page with me!). That said, John and David had a lovely physical relationship and nice chemistry with one another when it counted. A Note in the Margin is a heavy, heart-grabbing read; I can certainly see how and why it’s a beloved book for many.