Margin Notes: Us


'I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.'

'Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?'

Douglas Petersen understands his wife's need to 'rediscover herself' now that their son is leaving home.

He just thought they'd be doing their rediscovering together.

So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.

What could possibly go wrong?
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an enjoyable, if not memorable, read. It's a romantic comedy. Not quite as good as Nicholls' other book, One Day, but still, the guy writes characters and relationships very convincingly.

It's the story of a small family that is unraveling. It's told from the perspective of the father, Douglas (in my cast, he's a British Steve Carrell). He's an analytical, scientific, semi dorky / nerdy guy who somehow meets, falls for, and marries an artist. Connie, his beautiful wife, has an urban artists' soul (I'd cast her as Emily Blunt or an older keira knightly). She wants to be free wheeling, uninhibited, experimental, creative, spur of the moment, and exciting. Douglas would rather have a plan, understand the facts, make rational decisions. Their son, Albie, tends toward his mother's version of life and seems to have little to nothing in common with his dad (Honestly, I'm so out of the loop with teen actors... maybe a young Leonardo Dicaprio type?).

This book begins a week or so before the family is going to head out on a grand tour of Europe before Albie goes off to college. Connie turns to Douglas in the middle of the night and says she thinks she wants to leave him.

They decide to go on the vacation and figure out what to do when they get back. Douglas makes it his mission to win back his wife on their trip.

This is the story of a weird couple that, in all likelihood, would never have become a couple in the real world. They're almost foils of each other, but, let's give them the benefit of the doubt.

I loved the characterization in this book--it's laughable how stodgy Douglas is--on his list of 'to dos' he writes something to the effect of "have fun, be carefree." His passion for science is impressive. His passion to provide for his family is equally understandable. He's definitely the black sheep of this little family and you feel a little bad for him--he's outnumbered, and he sounds potentially like a nightmare to live with, but he's also lovable. He's unaware, and at a certain point, his dorkiness becomes a little... easy to anticipate and boring. But you still love the guy. Connie is the free flowing, carefree woman who ends up in a life I'm sure she didn't anticipate. I didn't connect with her as a character as much since the book isn't written from her perspecitve, but I'm surprised their marriage lasted 18 years when their interests were so divergent. Albie is suuuuuuuch a teenager. I liked him the most. He was horrible to his dad, horrible in general, selfish, he took everything for granted, but he was just so honest. Loved him.

Because Douglas is so unaware, the story isn't as interesting and vibrant as it could have been, but, I laughed out loud, I shed a tear, I had fun while reading it.

The story is unbelievable, but I like the narrative arc and it's well written. It doesn't end completely predictably, there are some fun quirky characters. This would be a great read for a specific kind of person on vacation. (Maybe not anyone whose marriage is on shaky ground).

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