John McCann is a business executive who lives to work. When he begins to experience debilitating migraines, his doctor suggests that he make some changes to his lifestyle and retire to the country and settle down with something less strenuous. Unwilling to give up everything he’s worked for, John compromises and decides to take a year off to run a bookstore named Margins.
With the help of the former owner’s son, Jamie, John learns the ropes of running a bookstore. Yet, everything he’s learned about business crumbles when he meets David, a homeless man who seeks refuge during the day in the bookstore’s used book section. Initially appalled that David spends his day in the bookstore, John finds himself drawn to the person David is. As the two form a tentative relationship, John and David begin to reevaluate their lives.
I applaud the author for tackling the issue of homelessness. Readers should be warned that she doesn’t candy coat the issue. David is homeless. He spends his days at the bookstore where the previous owner and her son allowed him to read the second-hand books. John is a businessman who focuses on the bottom line and not the people that bottom line affects. When Jamie doesn’t let John just toss David out, John is forced to see David as a person. Once he begins to see him as such, he finds himself worrying about his safety.
John is offering David an opportunity to turn his life around and stay off the streets. Despite this, readers watch David struggle. Though the author never explicitly addresses David’s mental illness, readers see him struggle between doing what he’s always done in order to survive and taking what John is offering him. I have to admit, I bawled my eyes out a few times during this story because I felt so surely that David would never be able to dig himself out of the depression he was in.
While I found myself caring deeply about these characters, I also found myself irritated that there were so many different points of view going on in the story, sometimes several within the same chapter. It made it confusing for me, many times having to go back and re-read several paragraphs in order to figure things out.
The other issue I found irritating was that the story starts out with John flirting with Jamie. Then John’s girlfriend appears…only to disappear and never to be heard from again. Then John jumps into bed with a homeless man, one whose entire worldly belongings fit inside a backpack. While the sex scenes were written as tender and loving, they struck me almost as if John was somehow taking advantage of David.
Despite these issues, I found myself reflecting on this book days after I read it. John and David’s relationship was as deeply flawed as the characters themselves, and this book opened my eyes to issues from which one ordinarily tends to look the other way.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.