Maggie’s Five (#1) by Sandra Fitzgerald

Published: 5th July 2014
Goodreads badgePublisher: Self Published
Pages: 266
Format: ebook
Genre: Romance
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

I had a great life. Not perfect, but really good. I was happy. 
I had a husband and two children. But now I’ve got Red. 
He’s using me but, that’s okay, because I’m using him too, only for a different reason. 
He wants sex and leverage. I want numb. 
But then Luke came back. 
Don’t be stupid. Luke’s not my husband. My husband is dead, like my children. 
Luke came back and things have started changing. And I think, maybe, that I’m okay with change, but I’m worried it’s too late, that I might be too far down the Rabbit Hole. 
I’m Maggie Cartwright, and this is my story. But be warned, it may not be the happy ever after you dream of.

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review

It took me a couple of days to read this book and each time I had to stop or was interrupted I found myself continually thinking about it. The first book in the Five series, the story is about Maggie, a woman who tragically loses her family in a freak accident and tries her best at dealing with the aftermath The story drags you in to Maggie’s world almost right away, a world that starts off as being about family, love, and great memories and is replaced by one that is filled with pain and loss.

The way Fitzgerald has constructed Maggie is wonderful. She isn’t anything too special, she is a mum and a wife, and she is a regular person who has a tragedy in her life and must find a way of dealing with it. This makes her real and someone who was never expecting to have to deal with something like this.

I really liked how Fitzgerald depicted Maggie’s grief and how she was coping. She makes it clear that there is no overnight downfall, nor is there an overnight recovery. People do not succumb to temptations and bad situations in one week and we see this slow decline in Maggie and in how she acts and how she feels as the days pass on.

By telling the story through Maggie it allows you to see the reasons and justifications for her actions and really get a deep sense of the emotions and the hollowness she is feeling. I loved that Fitzgerald doesn’t even make it terribly complex, but the emptiness is evident and it is clearly portrayed that Maggie is at a loss of what to do and shuts herself down and becomes a shell of herself.

Fitzgerald demonstrates her grief and her decent gradually; from the initial shock and pain you can see where things start to slip away from her and it takes over her life. One of the heartbreaking things to read is when you see how each knock adds another blow to her torment and watch as she tries to convince the world she is fine, covering her pain with a smile and a laugh before retreating to the safety of solitude once more.

There is a wonderful use of subtle references to show how Maggie is not coping with her loss, how she is eating less and wasting her days doing nothing. With Maggie’s perspective we see how these things sneak up on her, she doesn’t realise she is losing weight, and doesn’t realise that she is being consumed by grief. Fitzgerald never takes the reader’s sympathy away from Maggie, even when she gets worse, because we understand it so well from her point of view and we know what she is feeling and why she does what she does. There is no third party judgement, and even other characters like Luke do not judge, he lets her go through what she needs to go through without making her recover too quickly.

As Maggie begins to lose control of her pain she turns to drinking and bad company to numb it but it still isn’t something that you judge. You pity her and hope she won’t go too far but it isn’t stereotypical behaviour either. While it may seem that way, the way Fitzgerald has written it doesn’t come across as a cliché reaction. Instead, we see the pain and torment Maggie goes through and the reasons why she goes down this path and it is entirely justified, and as it continues it’s clear how it gets out of control which, in a way, is through no fault of her own. Influenced and controlled by the company she has sought comfort in rather than her own destructive forces.

Maggie pushes away her family and convinces them she is fine, but she is also in part, abandoned by her friends as well because they believe her when she says she is fine, and Luke is the only person who really cements himself in her life to make sure she is as fine as she says she is. Luke is an interesting character, he seems like he is imposing and it seems odd he is staying with Maggie but his reasons are soon made clear and he is someone that is there for Maggie even when she believes she doesn’t need him.

What Maggie does and feels remains real in my opinion, is never becomes too extreme or unbelievable. It is clear she doesn’t know how to handle what has happened and her toxic relationship with Red is more about his actions than hers which highlights her emotional state and vulnerability, not to mention her intense need to escape from everything.

By the end of the book it feels like you have been through as much of a journey as Maggie, one that is never certain there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Fitzgerald offers a chance of hope and redemption but she makes sure that it is worked for and not freely given which is something that makes this book that much better and unforgettable.

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