Maggie Elizabeth Harrington by David Swykert

Amazon Synopsis: Maggie Elizabeth Harrington is the story of a young woman in a remote 1890's northern Michigan mining town trying to save a pack of young wolves from a bounty hunter. A terse historical love story of a young woman's struggle with environmental and moral issues. concerning the slaughter of wolves, and the churches condemnation of her love for a young man, are as real in today's global world as they were for young Maggie over a century ago.

** DISCLAIMER: This book was sent for review by the author but that will not influence my rating or opinion**

The author was kind enough to send me a paperback copy of this book for review but I was a bit of a pain in timing. Before it got here in the UK it was half term meaning I had a week off and therefore went on holiday. I got the book when I got back but was reading Grave Mercy, which I got on my trip. As soon as I finished that whopper of a book (500+ pages) I picked up this slim number. Was a bit surprised when I read the back and none of the stuff written in the synopsis of the paperback happened until about page 120 of 161. It was just a big spoiler really...

So, the story revolves around Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, the main protagonist, who is a thirteen year old girl living in a town called Central Mine with a Methodist family and the boredom of life is setting in. By this I mean that she has no clue who she is but she knows it is not where she is heading. I went through the same thing with the dyeing of hair, piercings and ever changing attitude to life. Obviously due to the historical setting of the book, she didn't have this or a lot of freedom as an unmarried girl in a lowish standing class. Maggie is a normal teenager trying to find out who she is and how she can let out her inner self without being sent to hell. In this character I found an incredibly relatable and dynamic girl who was trying to do what all girls find themselves doing at that point in the cursed years of teenagerdom, figuring out who the hell they are and how they can get away with it and not be judged. This theme within the book was so deep and nostalgic for me as a reader and would probably be relatable to anyone from the ages of 12 onwards.

As a character and narrator, Maggie Elizabeth has been expertly written to sound like the 13 year old she is. There is repetition which at first seems like just a mishap in the writing but actually works to reinforce this writing style. One thing about Maggie which really grabbed my attention was her selfishness. Let me clear up that this is not a bad thing in fact it is something that writers have tried to successful incorporate into their characters as subtly as Swykert does for a long time only to end up with a character that grinds on every ones nerves. Even in being selfless the character manages to relate things back to herself unintentionally, which is something that human beings do more often than they would like to admit. Acting of impulse due to her changing feelings and uneasy feeling of belonging lead Maggie to yearn to be old enough for marriage as well as the new life it brings like a lot of kids do and this makes her love for the boy Tommie that much more important in the characters mind.

This love story did weird me out a bit though. There is no doubt that it is due to the social conventions I have grown up with though. Love interest, Tommie, is a 16 year old boy from a wealthy family in the area whose sister, Annie, is Maggie's best friend. The fact that he is 3 years older than her is not what disturbs me because I am someone who believes age doesn't matter, so long as it is not with a child. In England when you are 16 you finish high school, are legally allowed to move out and can basically be considered a trainee adult until you are 18. Because of this anyone in the place where I live faces a serious ragging (definition for non-northerners: teasing, judging and general unwanted attention from everyone until it stops) if they start a romantic relationship with anyone below the age of maybe 15 when they are 16. For this reason I found their relationship as a bit of a phase within itself and detached myself from it leading me to see how well this desperate girl is going to be accepted by someone.

At first they have a kind of crush on each other at first before Maggie Elizabeth decides that she loves him. The thought process that led to that made me laugh because it was so realistic. At 13 girls think that because they watched 'The Notebook' that one time they know what love is but the truth is that there is a moment in your mind where you see the boy/girl you have a crush on and just go "I love them". It is a totally unromantic moment but from then on the 13 year old switches off to reason and their ideology of 'love' takes over until something happens to ruin their lives for a whole week and snap them back into reality. No exception for Maggie.

Throughout the book I found myself questioning Maggie and then switching sides to question her father. His relationship with his daughter is strained due to his introvert personality and this is a constant thing for Maggie through out the book as she believes he does not love her since her mother died giving birth to Maggie. This meant that at points I did back the romance a bit and really felt for Maggie. In particular, the last couple chapters sent me on an emotional roller coaster I was not prepared for. I felt shame and tension as well as a hatred for certain characters I did not know was inside me. I did not predict the outcome and as it happened my reaction was as follows: 
As a book this creates a realistic narrative with a character that is so accurate in a teenage girls behaviour and thoughts that I am suspicious of the author being a psychic, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Skillfully written and thought provoking to say the least. I also would have rated it higher had I connected with the love story more and not been subjected to having repressed memories of my 13 year old self  resurfacing resulting in mass cringing throughout the book. Highly recommended to those who want a quick read that will result in nostalgia and an emotional roller coaster courtesy of two paragraphs.

P.S. The covers also marked it down. I hate to say it but I do not like either of them :s Sorry David!

Rating: 4.3/5  


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