Review: On Maggie’s Watch

Title: On Maggie’s Watch

Author: Ann Wertz Garvin

Genre/Pages: Fiction/304

Publisher: November 2, 2010; Berkley Books

Rating: 2.5 Bookmarks

Source: Publisher

Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis: When a very pregnant Maggie Finley returns to her Wisconsin hometown from the big city, the safe haven she and her husband are seeking proves elusive as they learn their neighbors might have dark secrets and spotty pasts.

First, a rating scale clarification: In my almost two years of writing book reviews on this site, I have not yet awarded 5 bookmarks to any book.  I’m not intentionally stingy and think my rating scale might be a bit different from a traditional 1 to 5 scale. A 2-bookmark read for me is one that I would pick up at the library.  A 3-bookmark read I would add to my TBR pile in the near future.  I’ve started including links to other reviews to give additional perspectives.

On Maggie’s Watch is a novel that examines how priorities shift after the loss of a child.  Maggie Finely has experienced a devastating loss and the second time around time around, she’s not taking any chances.  After settling back into her hometown, she breathes new life into the old neighborhood watch program to help curb crime.  While most of the neighbors concern themselves with petty vandalism, Maggie sets her sights on bigger fish, namely a registered sexual offender living right in the neighborhood.

This novel grapples with many themes–friendship, loss, control, love, family, persecution–and Garvin tells a solid story that had me laughing out loud a few times.  Unfortunately, the characters seemed a bit one-dimensional, and I never was able to connect with Maggie.  She was chilly and distant from her husband, shutting him out and redirecting her attentions to a handsome neighbor.  Her friendship with Julia, a friend from childhood, seemed stilted and forced.

Maggie’s obsession with vigilante justice seemed dangerous and foolish to me.  She made it her business to ride a bike to a sex offender’s house in the wee hours of the night (she’s 7 months pregnant, mind you) to carry out small acts of vandalism and is spotted by numerous neighbors.

Additionally, the big reveal was evident to me long before Maggie learned about.  I’m not sure if it was intentional but it made for a bit of a let down.  This was an extremely quick read, and I’m sure many readers out there will enjoy this story despite my tepid review.  On Maggie’s Watch is Garvin’s debut novel, and I would be willing to give her next book a read because she did have me laughing with anecdotes and expressions.

Ultimately, this book might not have been a great match for me because I don’t have kids and have never been involved in that lifestyle.  Readers who are parents may be able to relate more with Maggie and her compulsive behaviors to keep her baby safe or the way parents can become strangers during the course of raising their family.

Here is another review of On Maggie’s Watch:

BookHounds absolutely loved it and is giving away a copy


  1. Oh, what a shame this book didn’t work for you — but you gave it an honest chance, and that’s what key. I haven’t heard of this book and I think I might still give it a go, so I will keep an eye out for it!

  2. Based on the premise and your review, I don’t think it’d be a book for me either.

  3. First of all, 7 months pregnant and riding a bike to commit vandalism just doesn’t ring true to me. So I doubt the rest would either.

  4. Sorry you didn’t enjoy this one more. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea either!

  5. well, the author does justify the character’s actions–she’s hyper-vigilant about safety because she lost her first baby–but it still seemed a bit nutters to me, too. 🙂

  6. another reviewer–one i linked to–absolutely loved this book. every reader is different, i guess.

  7. I passed on this one, and your review has confirmed that I made the right choice. Thanks!

  8. I rarely give 5 star ratings either, so I totally understand. This book sounds a little disturbing.

  9. I will be reading this book soon, so I’m glad to see your review. When I was reading the publisher’s summary, I thought to myself that this woman seems a bit ridiculous riding on a bike at night heavily pregnant. I don’t think anyone wants to live near a registered sex offender, but that seems a bit over the top. I guess I’ll find out for myself soon enough.

  10. Ann Wertz Garvin says:

    Thank you for your balanced review. I don’t think this book is for everyone as you indicate. I appreaciate you giving it a read though.
    I think readers reading your review are concerned for the safety of the child here which is exactly how Maggie feels. I tried to balance her worries with humor but that doesn’t always balance strong themes. In any case, my best to you.

  11. Oh, yes, every reader is different, you are spot on! I wrote a tough review on Dracula, the Un-Dead earlier this year, but I know others enjoyed it, so sometimes it just is what it is! 🙂

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