"Kudos to first time novelist Carolyn Clarke for bringing these complex, evolving personalities to life. "
"A captivating, comedy-drama exploring the complex and turbulent relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law. A FINALIST and highly recommended."
Readers' Choice Book Awards

"And Then There's Margaret... is a wonderful, fun confection of a tale, written with verve and humour. Clarke has illuminated every married woman's nightmare - the mother-in-law who majors in criticism - and written it in such a way that had me blurting out my coffee. The 'Code For...Phrases' toward the end had me laughing out loud. You'll cringe with Allie as she tries to avoid verbal minefields, and laugh along with with her, all the while having empathy for almost every character in the book. This effervescent tale is perfect for summer reading."

Melodie Campbell, Award-winning author of The Goddaughter series

AND THEN THERE’S MARGARET, Carolyn Clarke’s debut dramedy, centers around hapless, middle-aged Allie and the antagonistic force of nature that is her mother-in-law, Margaret. In Carolyn Clarke’s novel, AND THEN THERE’S MARGARET, the author takes a standard narrative conflict involving man versus man and domesticates and revivifies it in Allison Montgomery relationship to her mother-in-law. Readers are perfectly introduced to narrator, Allie, who is in a state of aggravated discomfort as she signs up for a fitness membership. Clarke’s well-drawn Allie–who in middle age has a flagging sex drive, low self-esteem, a job she’s bored with, a distant 21-year-old daughter and a hard-working husband who she fears might stray–is already living the spiraling uncertainty of a middle-aged, middle-class, American female life. She loves her family, tries her best, gets frustrated, and sometimes makes bad decisions. She is our heroine and easy to relate to. When Allie’s beloved father-in-law George dies, Allie’s husband Hank dutifully brings his widowed mother, Margaret, to their home for an open-ended stay. Bam! Into Allie’s awkward midlife passage, Clarke throws a fabulous grenade. How will Allie, who’s treading water as it, handle life with a woman who seems almost obliviously intent on drowning her? While Allie is flawed and familiar, it is Margaret’s pricelessly imperious, dismissive, fragile character that injects magic into this book. In page after page, Margaret manages with effortless hauteur to define Allie as slovenly, alcoholic, careless and somehow responsible for every possible bad thing anyone in the family encounters. Such is Margaret’s grand arrogance that she is blind to her own manifest mistakes and poor judgment. An additional gift of this novel rests in what is not there. It would have been easy for Margaret’s attributes to slip into absurdity. It would have been easy for Clarke to design Allie as a flawless innocent put-upon by her cruel mother-in-law. To Clarke’s credit she steers clear of these caricatures. In doing so, she creates a more delicate story about navigating middle-age. There is less high drama, but more relevant bite making AND THEN THERE’S MARGARET is a warm, well-turned, funny debut novel about family and aging that lightly reminds readers that we are all a little buffoonish, at every age. Carolyn Clarke’s skillful and subtle storytelling in AND THEN THERE’S MARGARET, a playful coming-of (middle)-age novel, navigates a path that is funny without being absurd while creating a relatable narrator who encounters a magnificent little-old-lady menace.

- Indie Reader

Rife with witty banter, Carolyn Clarke's debut laugh-out-loud family dramedy, And Then There's Margaret feels like a much beloved night out with friends. She has created a main character who is a real human—one who faces challenge after challenge and tries to meet life’s challenges with deep breathing and mantras galore. If only life’s issues listened to these attempts. Carolyn Clarke has taken the rocky mother-daughter trope and added a healthy dose of monster-mother-in-law into the mix that will make you gleefully turn page after page to see what each character dishes up next. Allison is a middle-aged wife of two whose mother-in-law, Margaret, still expects her son to need her on a near daily basis. From stopping by unannounced, to checking coat pockets and cupboards, to cleaning out the fridge and then the entire house, Allison’s mother-in-law is an overly doting, needy woman who cannot restrain herself from uttering near-constant cutting remarks and criticisms towards Allison’s inability to meet her family’s every perceived need. Hank, Allison’s husband, and George, Hank’s father, play monkey in the middle in every scenario until George loses his battle with a terminal illness thus leaving Margaret, Hank, and Allison to sweat it out alone. Carolyn Clarke’s book is unique and different from most other books in this genre. She has created a storyline that is realistic yet leaves the reader guessing where the story is taking them next. Her characters feel like people you’d want to sit and have a coffee with, learn from, or run away from (in Margaret’s case). And yet, each character develops, changes, and reveals aspects of themselves that make sense and endear them to their readers even more. I appreciated the ending to this novel so much; Clarke was thoughtful about keeping her book sincere, humorous, and heartfelt to the very end. And Then There’s Margaret will have you giggling, outright laughing, or hungrily turning the page to see what new antics Margaret will create next. In this hilarious, down-to-Earth read, debut author Carolyn Clarke has created charming and fascinating characters that could come from any home on any block and because they feel so human, you’ll want to stay with them until the very last page. Chick Lit Café is proud to recommend the multi-award winning, humorous, family dramedy novel And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke.

- ChickLit Cafe

And Then There's Margaret by Carolyn Clarke is a hilarious tale that I'm sure many people can relate to. We've all heard the jokes and stories about mothers-in-law and, while some of them are perfectly nice, some are Margaret. This is an entertaining story that will have you in fits of laughter, although there is the bittersweet side of a woman coming to terms with the loss of her husband too. It's a well-written story with crisp, clear dialog that engages you from the start and characters that you can't help but relate to. It deals with real-life issues in a way so that you can understand and empathize with each character but I guarantee you one thing - you will pick sides in this story! With plenty of action and no small amount of humor, this is a great story to while away a few hours on a rainy day or on the beach.

- Readers' Favorite

And Then There’s Margaret is a lively, satirical, contemporary debut by Carolyn Clarke, a talented writer (and also a heralded book blogger) who has given this novel her all! When her beloved father-in-law passes away, Allison Montgomery is left to deal with the mother-in-law from hell. Will Allison survive as Margaret obsessively vrooms the vacuum, compulsively polishes glassware, tells Allison how to live, and mega interferes with grown grandkids. Worse, what if Margaret moves into Allison’s home—permanently? After all, Allison is married to Margaret’s laid back only son who loves his menacing mom beyond question. Can Allison talk her mother-in-law into independent living at the nearest facility in a hurry? You bet Allison is going to try—finding her own way and a new outlook as she does. Gift this book to your own mother-in-law--as long as she lives very far away.

- Marilyn Simon Rothstein, Author of Crazy to Leave You and Lift & Separate

And Then There's Margaret by Carolyn Clarke is a captivating debut with a strong appeal for fans of literary and Women's fiction, a story that explores the relationship between two women as they navigate life after a painful loss. At the time Allison Montgomery signs up for the gym in the hopes of bringing some dynamism and color into her life, her estranged husband, Hank, calls in to inform her of the death of her father-in-law, George. It is not long before her mother-in-law, Margaret who has always appeared mean, domineering, and critical of Allie comes in with huge luggage. Thus begins a journey filed with challenging moments and skillfully executed conflict. After facing many things together, will the relationship between the two women get any better? While Clarke offers a fresh new literary voice, the writing in And Then There’s Margaret is confident and the prose is crisp. Clarke excels in writing scenes that are resonant and in building relationships that constitute the fabric that allows the perfect portrait of a somewhat dysfunctional family to take shape in the narrative. It is interesting to follow the journey that the two women —Allie and Margaret — make to become better people and to build a better connection. Margaret is the typical mother-in-law who believes she knows what is best for her daughter-in-law and her two children and it is an attitude that irritates Allie and sets her on edge. Allie is a genuinely flawed character, a woman facing problems that are common for people in mid-life — struggling with a twenty-two year-old marriage, finding passion, having a job that provides assurance for the future, and dealing with the kids’ problems. The story is filled with humanity and infused with realism. Clarke writes characters that are fully drawn and relatable and she writes them into situations that reflect the sheer pain of just being human. The emotions of the characters are expressed with whip-smart commentaries and readers will enjoy watching these characters as they deal with issues that Allie’s children are facing, including a dubious boyfriend. Throughout, Clarke mesmerizes with her dazzling prose and her ability to write details into the inner worlds of the characters — they are complex and emotionally rich. This is a remarkable debut you won’t want to miss.

- The Book Commentary

I knew right away when I read the summary of And Then There's Margaret, that I wanted to review it. That I needed to review it. The story of Allison (Allie) Montgomery, who suddenly has to share her house with Margaret, her manipulative mother-in-law, appealed to me. Without a doubt, it will appeal to many other women, as well (and many men, too). After the death of her husband, George, Margaret can’t cope alone, so she moves in with her son. And with his wife, Allison, with whom the relationship is strained — but you already have guessed that. Definitely, the grief doesn’t help Allie and Margaret to appreciate each other. It puts Allie in a life crisis. Between her husband, who works with a seductive colleague, and her daughter, who falls in love with the wrong man, Allie has to live with Margaret, the daughter-in-law’s nightmare. Margaret tries to control the household — her son and her two grandchildren, without forgetting the chores and the decoration of the house. Even though the summary of the book captivated me, I was afraid Margaret would be a cliché. Calculating mothers-in-law are a delicate subject. Yet Carolyn Clarke weaves the plot with skill, and her characters are all convincing, with their flaws and quirks. Moreover, the wittiness of the writing enlightened the story. Here, day-to-day life is never boring. A book written from a female perspective is often cataloged as for women only. (THIS is a cliché.) And Then There's Margaret is for the women who once had a toxic mother-in-law. (Or still have.) And for the women who want to feel less alone. Yet, men also should read this novel to better understand the opposite sex. After all, they know that life can be complicated when changes force their way into our existence. You will appreciate this book if you love a pinch of humor in the sorrow. Despite George’s death, which influenced the entire story, the novel isn’t depressive. The dosage between laughs and tears is perfect. Carolyn Clarke succeeds in telling the story of Allie, a strong woman caught in one of those moments in life when everything is going wrong.

- Reedy Discovery

Clarke’s debut novel presents the story of a tempestuous relationship between a woman and her daughter-in-law. In an unnamed American suburb, Allison Montgomery is a mother of two who feels stuck in a rut, so she signs up with her local gym. As she fills out the membership forms, she receives a call from her husband, Hank, informing her that her beloved father-in-law, George, has just died: “I took another deep breath, feeling a stinging sensation in my eyes so bad I closed them. He’s gone.” Soon, Allie’s mother-in-law, Margaret, arrives at their house, bringing with her a huge suitcase that suggests that she won’t be leaving anytime soon. Allie and Margaret have never seen eye to eye, and Margaret still criticizes her, ignores her wishes, and makes decisions about what’s best for her two children without consulting her. Now, both women must learn to coexist as they face such struggles as Hank and Allie’s troubled marriage, son Cameron’s impending driver’s test, daughter Samantha’s suspicious new boyfriend and uncertainties about college, and Margaret’s adaptation to a new normal without her husband. Over the course of this novel, Clarke offers a tale that’s often funny and sharp. Her characterization of Margaret does occasionally slip into a monster-in-law caricature at times, offering very little to redeem her or create a sense of deeper understanding between the two women. However, some humanity does begin to shine through toward the end of the book. Clarke weaves in aspects of the uncertainties of middle age, including Allie’s search for a new career that will make her feel passionate again. Allie’s visits to the gym, which features an intimidating young receptionist, are particularly comical. An often entertaining story of a middle-aged protagonist who finds a new connection with her in-law and a new lease on life.

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“Rife with witty banter. A laugh-out-loud family dramedy that feels like a much beloved night out with friends. ChickLit Cafe 
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