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On Maggie's Watch

Ann Wertz Garvin


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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...

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Berkley, 9780425236789, 304pp.

Publication Date: November 2, 2010

About the Author

Ann Wertz Garvin worked as a registered nurse while finishing her doctorate in exercise psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is a professor of health and nutrition at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater. Additionally, she teaches creative writing in the Masters of Fine Arts program at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire. She is the author of one previous novel, On Maggie’s Watch. She lives in Wisconsin.

Conversation Starters from

The death of Maggie’s first child has caused her to be overly cautions about her current pregnancy. Why do you think she insists on putting herself in harm’s way and subjects herself to so much stress during her last trimester?

Julia and Maggie have very different ways of seeing the world. Maggie is fueled by a burning desire to seek out every possible danger while Julia rarely investigates below the surface of a situation. How do these points of view define the two women? Which point of view makes more sense and why?

Julia and Martin have a candid conversation about his ever-changing relationship with Maggie. He voices his expectations about marriage and family and explains how they differ from the realities of married life. How do these expectations and realities vary between the husbands and wives in the Finley and Morris households?

Ella’s death has left an undeniable scar both on Maggie and Martin’s lives. How do they each deal with their grief? How do Maggie’s coping methods console or confuse Martin?

Martin explains that he is working more hours so that he can take time off when his child is born. Maggie insists that he’s growing distant and unsupportive during her time of need. How do you think men and women see pregnancy differently? Do you feel sympathetic to Martin’s dilemma or are Maggie’s demands on him justified?

Julia becomes agitated when she discovers she is pregnant, while Maggie is ecstatic at the idea of starting a family. How do you think these women view children and what are their reasons for having them?

The loss of a parent at an early age has shaped both Maggie and Julia in their adult lives. Are they more similar or different because of it? How does this traumatic experience affect their interactions with their own family and loved ones?

Communication differences between the sexes are a constant theme throughout the novel. How does each male character communicate differently with his partner or his friends in this story? Does one man stand out as a better communicator than the others? Why?

What fuels Maggie’s attraction to David? Would the sexual tension between them exist if she weren’t pregnant? Prior to her discovery of David’s true identity, do you think Maggie ever entertained the idea of betraying her husband?

Maggie visits the Tyson home multiple times, committing acts of vandalism that escalate in magnitude over the course of the novel. Despite the fact that Eleanor declines to press charges against her, do you feel that Maggie should be punished for her actions? Why or why not?

Steven feels that Maggie is a stressful influence on Julia. We learn that while Maggie hasn’t always been there for Julia, Julia remains Maggie’s most loyal confidant. Why do you think Julia remains dedicated to Maggie when their relationship is so obviously unbalanced? Do you feel that Maggie takes Julia for granted? If so, why? Which other characters are undervalued or made to feel unappreciated by a friend, lover, or relative?

How does The American Dream or, in Maggie’s own words, “The American Median,” impact her outlook on her marriage, her pregnancy and her neighborhood?

Are online resources like the Department of Corrections website’s list of sexual predators a blessing or a curse to neighborhoods like Elmwood, WI?

Whether it’s her mother, her best friend, or her husband, Maggie seems to be surrounded by voices of reason. How would their absence affect the outcome of this novel? Who do you feel has the most influence on Maggie’s behavior? Does this change throughout the story?