A wonderful novel: On Maggie’s Watch
Posted on January 6, 2013
I have a very warm place in my heart for stories that find drama, magic, loss, and redemption in everyday life. Life as most of us live it. I’d include movies like Tender Mercies and Win Win, the poetry of Alan Feldman, and now the novel On Maggie’s Watch by Ann Garvin, a faculty member in our MFA program.
Set in a small Wisconsin town to which the book’s protaganist has recently returned, it revolves around pregnant Maggie’s obsession with the discovery that a registered sex offender lives in her neighborhood. Having lost one child, she is increasingly unhinged at the threat posed by this pedophile and sets out on a nutty plan to drive him out of town. Along the way, we visit themes of loss, the challenges of marriage, a growing crush that flirts with something more, friendship, parents and abandonment. Heavy stuff and oftentimes hilarious.
Ann has a quirky eye for detail and an unfailingly good ear for the way people talk to each other. Her characters feel like the people we know in our lives and they remind us that everyone walks around with their personal stories of loss, courage, failure, love, and redemption. Sometimes in ways that feel or are actually a little unhinged. Ann reminds us that we all have our flaws and the ability to rise above them. Unlike a writer like Jonathan Franzen in his much reviewed and praised Freedom, Ann clearly loves her characters and so we too come to deeply care for them.
This is a big-hearted novel with big themes set in small lives in a small place and humane and eminently satisfying. By the way, did I mention that this is her first novel? I can’t wait for the next one.