Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: On Maggie's Watch by Ann Wertz Garvin

Title: On Maggie's Watch
Author: Ann Wertz Garvin
Date Published: August 2011
ISBN: 978-0425236789
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.0 out of 5

Publisher’s Book Summary: Maggie Finley has returned with her husband from the big city to her Wisconsin hometown, where she reunites with her best friend and awaits the any-minute-now birth of her baby. She's determined to create a safe haven on Hemlock Road, a neighborhood that has always meant security, community, and love. One way to do that: resurrect the defunct Neighborhood Watch program.

The Watch folks are mostly concerned with dog poop and litterbugs. But Maggie's done some digging and discovered a potential threat living just around the corner-a threat that must be eradicated. And the more Maggie tries to take control, the more out of control she gets...

My Thoughts: I was very curious about On Maggie's Watch by Ann Wertz Garvin the first time I read the book summary. I suspected what the threat "that must be eradicated" might be and hoped I was right because I wanted to read a book that focused on this issue. When I discovered On Maggie's Watch on the list for Crazy Books Tours I signed up immediately. My suspicions as to the threat were correct but otherwise this book wasn't at all what I expected. I finished reading it when I was in the middle of dealing with some difficult problems and I wasn't focused on the review. By the time things cleared up, I'd moved on to reading other books forgot to review On Maggie's Watch. I admit, too, part of it was I don't like writing reviews when I didn't like a book very much! Then I spoke to Jen who runs Crazy Book Tours. I realized it wasn't right for me to receive a book through Crazy Books hard work, read it and not write anything about it.

Maggie, the main character of On Maggie's Watch, is pregnant with her second child. Her first was stillborn and the pain and despair of that event and time in her life still lives inside Maggie. She and her husband moved out of the city to the suburbs of Maggie's childhood to be in a safer environment for their child. But Maggie's not completely comfortable in her old neighborhood either, even with her best friend, Julia, just a hop, skip and a jump away from her. When Maggie, with encouragement from Julia, decides to resurrect the defunct Neighborhood Watch program, she's envisioning something more like a military operation than some neighbors making sure they're all safe and respectful of each other and their property.

Maggie obviously has issues with control from page one but her concern with the safety of her unborn baby is understandable particularly when we learn about the problems with her first pregnancy. And women's hormones tend to go a little crazy during pregnancy. Still, I was perplexed when Maggie's husband and Julia made comments referring to times in the past when Maggie's behavior was strange and out-of-control. I felt like I was missing something that I was supposed to know which they assumed I knew but I didn't and I couldn't find the answer anywhere in the book. They seem to be saying that Maggie's bizarre behavior wasn't related to her pregnancy. But then why wasn't she seeing a doctor or getting some help from someone? It was frustrating and confusing. I soon got a clue to what they were probably talking about in terms of Maggie's behavior but it only made me more confused and perplexed.

Maggie discovers via the internet that a sex offender lives in the neighborhood. She has no idea why this person's on the list but she doesn't care. That fact that he's on the sex offender list is enough. Maggie becomes extremely annoyed because nobody else, not her husband or Julia or the neighbors, take this issue as seriously as she does. Maggie's, wacky, nutty-but-cute, controlling behavior suddenly evolves into completely out-of-control, looney-tunes crazy! It includes the obviously pregnant Maggie, in her adorable PJs, bicycling through the neighborhood in the dead of night to sabotage the home of the sex offender.

In Maggie's mind she's protecting her unborn child. Somehow her husband, who is so concerned about her, completely misses these nightly excursions. Julia eventually finds out what Maggie's doing and, though she thinks Maggie's nuts, does nothing about it! During the day, Maggie seems to be losing her grasp on reality as she distances herself from her husband, flirts with a man she met through the Neighborhood Watch program, imagining a new life with him and plans her nightly assaults on the sex offender. It doesn't help Maggie's behavior that she's not sleeping much. It seems Maggie's become so obsessed with the sex offender and her new crush, she's forgotten she needs to take care of herself to take care of her unborn baby.

On Maggie's Watch moves at a quick pace and, although I had problems with Maggie's character, I though the novel was well-written, the dialogue realistic and well-done and the passages about sex offenders and the sex offender list were interesting and informative. This certainly wasn't the light book I thought it was going to be. There are some funny scenes and humorous comments but several of the issues including that of sex offenders as well as Maggie's behavior make this a more intense, and heavier book than I expected it to be. I wasn't able to connect with or relate to Maggie in anyway and I didn't really like her. The other characters were so ineffectual and two-dimensional that I barely remembered them after finishing the book. Ms. Garvin relays one of the major problems with the way the sex offender laws are administered in her book. I wish the story surrounding this issue was clearer and more powerful.

Ann Wertz Garvin's Website and Blog

Thank you to Crazy Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review On Maggie's Watch.


  1. I've actually known a few people who sound like Maggie, if you can believe that. Sorry this book didn't live up to your expectations.

  2. Doesn't sound like my kind of book but I did have to laugh at the picture in my mind of a pregnant woman trying to ride a bike - I can hardly walk in a straight line when I'm pregnant, let alone bike.

  3. I'm sorry that this wasn't done better -- it sounds like Maggie was too unlikeable a character, and that the real points to be made about the sex offender list issue may have been lost in an over the top plot.

    I understand your difficulty in reviewing a book that you don't like :)

  4. I have this book up for review soon, and I have to say that I am curious about it. I think there are a lot of women out there like Maggie, and despite the fact that she was unlikeable, perhaps I will find her situation interesting. This is one that we will have to discuss when I am done with it. By the way, I loved this review. Your candor was greatly appreciated!

  5. BERMUDAONION: Wow, Kathy! I expect they're not the easiest people to deal with! You didn't say you're frends with them, which I can understand. Have you read this book? If not, it's be interesting to see what you think of Maggie!

  6. DANA: It does paint a strange picture! I'd think any woman who's been pregnant would find Maggie's behavior ridiculous!

  7. The BOOKGIRL: Thank you! I know a negative review is really just my opinion & if I do it well & kindly I shouldn't worry but I still find it difficult to write such a review. I'm glad I'm not the only one.
    You're right, the issue of sex offenders and the list was somewhat lost in Maggie's behavior which overshadowed everything.

  8. ZIBILEE: Oh great, I'm glad you're going to be reviewing this book. I'd love to discuss it and know what you think. I wondered if the fact that I haven't experienced pregnancy wasa bit of a disadvantage in critiquing Maggie's behavior

  9. Overall it sounds like this read was a but uneven. Still, I am curious enough about it to give it a try.

  10. I found this book hard to like, too. Maggie was just so out there, but the writing is really good. And it is a mix of both lightness and heaviness and does shed light on the challenges of administering sex offender laws.

  11. Sorry this book wasn't quite for you, but thanks for participating in the tour and giving it a try! :) I still have it in my TBR pile and hope to read it "someday". heehee :)