by Ann Wertz Garvin
Berkley - General fiction
296 pages, incl. discussion questions
The houses were dark and tricycles rested quietly on front lawns, worn out after a hard day's play as police cars, motorcycles, and ice cream trucks. She took a deep breath of freedom and exhaled the tightness that often gathered in her sternum. Her mother would call this kind of activity "working the kinks out." Maggie silently agreed. Tyson was a kink all right. A kink in her tidy life of husband, home, and homilies. But after an evening of biking and harassment, she knew she would sleep a dreamless, restful sleep.
--pp. 113-114, On Maggie's Watch
Maggie is very pregnant and extremely nervous. After suffering a tragic loss, she has fallen back on her standby method to keep from thinking: staying busy. With thoughts of her unborn child's safety occupying her mind, Maggie decides to set up a Neighborhood Watch Program. But, in the process of doing so, she discovers a registered sex offender lives very, very nearby. Angry that such a person is allowed to live anonymously in a perfectly nice subdivision, she sets out to drive him away, going on middle-of-the-night bike rides in her pajamas without even considering who might be doing surveillance on her.
Meanwhile, Maggie's best friend Julia has problems of her own, the neighborhood busybody is driving Maggie and her husband nuts and Maggie's mother is no help at all. While Maggie's husband is consumed with work, she finds she has just a little bit of a crush on a neighbor who has offered to help out with some minor fix-it jobs around the house. What is Maggie getting herself into?
My review: I was completely stunned by On Maggie's Watch. When I opened it up, I had an inkling that it was going to be simplistic and silly. I was so wrong. Maggie is really a very fun character but she's a bit of disaster. A rough childhood and a terrible loss have left her justifiably nervous, but as the book progresses she gradually loses control. And, yet, she is such a delightful character that you can't help but root for her, even when she's losing it. Best friend Julia is a funny, overburdened mother with a potty mouth and a life that's insane for completely different reasons. On Maggie's Watch begins with a bit of overwrought dialogue but ends up a heart-warming, funny, poignant, meaningful read about love and loss, delusion and reality, temptation and self-control.
The bottom line: Highly recommended but be patient with the lightweight beginning. An entertaining, humorous, upbeat read that started out slowly and quickly became engrossing. I smiled a lot, gasped a little, occasionally wiped away tears. On Maggie's Watch is a surprising, hopeful read. Don't expect deep writing; this book is light but lively.