REVIEW: Margo’s Got Money Troubles: A Novel by Rufi Thorpe

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A bold, laugh-out-loud funny, and heartwarming story about one young woman’s attempt to navigate adulthood, new motherhood, and her meager bank account in our increasingly online world …

As the child of a Hooters waitress and an ex-pro wrestler, Margo Millet’s always known she’d have to make it on her own. So she enrolls at her local junior college, even though she can’t imagine how she’ll ever make a living. She’s still figuring things out and never planned to have an affair with her English professor—and while the affair is brief, it isn’t brief enough to keep her from getting pregnant. Despite everyone’s advice, she decides to keep the baby, mostly out of naiveté and a yearning for something bigger.

Now, at twenty, Margo is alone with an infant, unemployed, and on the verge of eviction. She needs a cash infusion—fast. When her estranged father, Jinx, shows up on her doorstep and asks to move in with her, she agrees in exchange for help with childcare. Then Margo begins to form a plan: she’ll start an OnlyFans as an experiment, and soon finds herself adapting some of Jinx’s advice from the world of wrestling. Like how to craft a compelling character and make your audience fall in love with you. Before she knows it, she’s turned it into a runaway success. Could this be the answer to all of Margo’s problems, or does internet fame come with too high a price?

Blisteringly funny and filled with sharp insight, Margo’s Got Money Troubles is a tender tale starring an endearing young heroine who’s struggling to wrest money and power from a world that has little interest in giving it to her. It’s a playful and honest examination of the art of storytelling and controlling your own narrative, and an empowering portrait of coming into your own, both online and off.

CW/TW – drug use, heroine works for OnlyFans, heroine was taken advantage of by her college professor, Margo does not believe that Mary’s son was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit

This isn’t a TW but tenses in the book switch from 1st to 3rd even as Margo is the only one telling the story.

Dear Ms. Thorpe,

I just loved this messy, funny book. Single mom Margo has to figure out how to earn enough money to support her newborn while also fighting against the judgmental status quo.

Margo Millet had dreams of going to NYU like her best friend but without her best friend’s parents’ deep pockets, that wasn’t going to happen. She’d been raised by her own single mother who had fallen hard for pro wrestler Jinx — married pro wrestler Jinx. When Margo met Mark, it wasn’t love at first sight. Margo went along with the affair, mostly I think because Mark made the slide into it easy. When she discovers she’s pregnant, they’re already separated.

The impulse to keep her pregnancy is more a negative reaction to everyone’s assumptions that abortion is the right and best thing for Margo. But once she’s gotten her first ultrasound, Margo has made her decision. Unfortunately, Margo hasn’t put as much thought into how she’s going to take things from there.

I will admit there were times when I sighed and thought, “Oh, Margo …” but then she’s only twenty years old when the reality of motherhood smacks her upside her head. She can’t keep studying, she can’t keep her old waitressing job, welfare won’t pay her rent much less anything else. When her father arrives looking for a place to stay, his financial assistance as well as his rapport with his grandson are a godsend. But it’s while watching wrestling that Margo is launched in the direction of her new job.

How do you get started in OnlyFans? Margo is mystified but she’s also determined and reaches out with some smart ideas to people who could help her as well as themselves. Then Margo uses her writing skills to try and take her account to the next level. Meanwhile, Jinx – at first astonished and not totally pleased with what his daughter is doing – thinks about it and quickly changes his mind. Then he uses his business skills to help her set up her business (set aside 30% for taxes after filing to be a corporation) and his wrestling knowledge to help her decide how to craft her “character.” When a fan reaches out to Margo and they start an email relationship, is he lying as much to Margo as she feels she needs to in order to protect herself and Bodhi? Because some fans are psychos.

Then just as things are starting to fall into place, the shit hits the fan and Margo faces not only losing her baby and her online anonymity but also her father to his long standing drug problems. This is where I totally became a Margo fan. She stands for so many young people who are taken advantage of by those who are older and then tossed against the ropes of life in a world that seems rigged against them from the get-go. Margo is not going to go down without a fight.

At first Margo and her support team are dog paddling to stay above legal water. Is Margo’s job a good thing in that it keeps food on the table and supports her child or a bad thing because she’s showing (parts of) her naked body to whoever will pay? She needs a lawyer but will those fees end up cleaning her out even if Ward’s advice is sound? Should she give the answers she thinks the psychologist wants or her real ones? When she gets hit by a second investigation, is it Mark trying to ensure his custodial win or someone else who called CPS? Will Jinx need to stop the drug program that has the best chance of helping him for one with a far lower success rate?

All along Margo’s journey, we see her keep trying, keep fighting, and keep being a pretty darn good mother to her child whom she adores and loves more than her own life. Bodhi isn’t a plot moppet at all. He’s a sweet baby who pukes, grabs Margo’s hair, demands his feedings, and needs to be changed. When faced with everything mustered against her, Margo does what she feels is best and then, in a moment of inspiration, she figures out a plan to win the whole thing and then executes it like a thing of genius. I was feeling a better grade but then thought that Mark really is a putz and due to the fact that he took advantage of his young student, I wanted him to suffer more for his consequences. But Margo works things to her advantage and in the end, she and Bodhi are looking good and sitting pretty with maybe a possible relationship in Margo’s future. That this doesn’t proceed to even a HFN is … right yet also hopeful. I think Margo’s going to do just fine. B+


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