Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Maggie's Watch by Ann Wertz Garvin

On Maggie's Watch
by Ann Wertz Garvin
Copyright 2010
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.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. Thanks for your review. I'll have to remember that this one starts out slowly.

  2. Kathy,

    It's worth remembering. I was worried at the beginning, but in the end I closed the book with a sigh. It was really a good read.

  3. Anonymous4:09 PM

    I have this one packed up for now. It will be a good one for later in the year. I love a book that can surprise you with depth through lightness (does that make sense?).

  4. Kay,

    Yes, I know exactly what you're talking about! Light writing can be surprisingly meaningful. :)

  5. Great review! It makes me want to read it, and I don't usually like this kind.

  6. Jenny,

    Well, I must have done something right, then! LOL Thanks! :)

  7. I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I liked that it wasn't the fluff I'd expected, but on the other, Maggie was just crazy and I couldn't like her very much. Still, it was an interesting book.

  8. I have this book up for review in a bit, and I have been looking forward to it. Thanks for the very perceptive review. I will also keep in mind that the beginning is a little fluffy.

  9. Anna,

    So true; Maggie was a disaster and the kind of character you want to slap some sense into. I was uncomfortable with the things she did, but I figured she was not herself because of her past tragedy and that she'd eventually come to her senses. I found the way the book ended somewhat predictable but satisfying and really liked the journey.

  10. Zibilee,

    The writing stays kind of fluffy, but the story has meaning in spite of a bad start. I recall thinking the first conversation went on way too long and was extremely repetitive. It did improve, though.

  11. Sounds interesting - I hadn't heard of this before. Found you & following through Lit in the Last Frontier, look forward to reading more reviews.

  12. Bookspersonally,

    I really was surprised how much I liked On Maggie's Watch, after I got into it. It's not going to end up on my top 10, but I'm glad I read it. :) Nice to meet you!

  13. I only just saw your review of ON MAGGIE'S WATCH. I'm so glad you liked it, especially the laugh, tear wiping, head shaking part. I like to write with all these things involved and so when I get that feed back I know I have arrived.
    My very best to you,

  14. Ann,

    Yep, it's official. You have arrived! :)


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