REVIEWED BY KAREN BYROM
There’s good and bad in all of us…
Maggsie McNaughton is an ex-con who’s been in and out of prison all her adult life. She’s just starting her umpteenth parole. But she’s fully expecting to be back in prison within days.
She knows her limits and her weaknesses, and admits to them with refreshing candour. She’s a dyslexic alcoholic with anger issues and a family that has washed their hands of her. What chance has she got?
Maggsie is small but feisty, but is aware her determined spirit won’t be enough to save her – she needs a goal, she needs commitment and most of all she needs a sense of self-belief that has been sadly lacking in her life – until now.
For on her very first day at work, Maggsie saves a young man’s life. Being told she has “a cool head in a crisis” prompts her to wonder if she can, after all, make something of her own life. Maybe she can become a respectable member of society and claim back the son taken from her for adoption 18 years ago.
With a goal in mind, Maggsie sets about grasping her second chance, helped – and sometimes hindered – by the people around her. Her colleague, Polish immigrant TJ, takes her under his wing, offering friendship and reading skills, social worker Ruby is always on hand with (sometimes unwanted) advice! And trying though they are, the motley collection of fellow inmates at her halfway-house offer Maggsie much-needed friendship and support.
Will all these, along with the affection of Audrey, her adopted stray cat, and her collection of Women’s World magazines, laboriously read, be enough to keep Maggsie on the stray and narrow when temptation beckons?
Maggsie is a feisty but likeable character…
Narrator Maggsie is a woman you’ll warm to immediately. Her very vulnerability is her strength, keeping her touchingly honest about her life on the wrong side of the law and her struggles to turn things around. She’s feisty, she’s funny and above all she has the courage to face up to her life and finally change it for the better. The fact she makes mistakes along the way only adds to her quirky charm.
The people around her are wonderful characters in their own right; from TJ, a big hulking man who is touchingly protective of his new friend, to housemates “Big” Shirl, “Juicy” Lucy, Kasia and Trudie – all larger-than-life ex-cons with their own touching stories, to Enid, Maggsie’s cellmate who is still serving time and who preoccupies a lot of Maggsie’s thoughts.
The writing is funny, yet tender – author Frances Maynard never sacrifices the reality of Maggsie’s situation for cheap laughs, but gives us a heroine whom we can believe in and cheer on every step of the way!
A wonderful read that will appeal to fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.