The Meaning Of Maggie
The Meaning Of Maggie is one of these deceptively colorful
jacketed books that looks like it will be about as deep as tween hit
shows featuring popular singers. I don't think I would have picked it
up if it hadn't been for the MSBA winner sticker on the spine. I am so
glad I did. It deals sensitively with a topic not addressed much in
juvenile literature: living with a parent who has a chronic illness
with no cure.
Maggie, author Megan Jean Sovern's protagonist, is starting
middle school more organized than some grad school students. Unlike
her older sisters, Layla and Tiffany, who seem to concentrate on being
hotties, she is motivated and disciplined. Maintaining a perfect
grade point and winning academic awards are the prizes she has her
"...The first bell of the school year was probably my favorite
sound ever. And this first bell was even more special because I was
in a whole new school in a whole new grade with whole new kids. It
was a new beginning, a blank slate, a manifest destiny..."
Maggie is one of those people who is happiest when she is in
control of all aspects of her life. Unfortunately her father, whom
she adores, has a mysterious disease. He needs a wheelchair to get
around. His legs fall asleep unpredictably. His hands can't always
do what he wants them to. Sometimes he has to be rushed to the
"...Dad will get better. That's what tough guys do. But still,
I have to admit that I'm worried. And it's that deep-down-in-your-
guts worried that's impossible to get rid of no matter how many Mike
and Ikes you eat."
When a parent has an incurable and unpredictable disease like
multiple sclerosis a lot changes. Roles shift. Maggie's mom has to
go to work when her husband can no longer hold down his job. Extended
family can be a lot less than supportive and helpful. The Meaning Of
Maggie gives much needed insight into what it's like to be coming of
age in the midst of all that.
The story is so genuine that I was not in the least surprised
when, in the acknowledgements, Sovern thanks her birth family for
letting her tell their story. I would not forgive myself if I ended
this review without the following quote:
"And finally thank you to my dad. While you live on in Ty,
Lane, Mac, Brady, Drew, and hopefully many more grandchildren to come,
your incredible fight lives on in these pages. I miss you. I love
you. And I hope that one day we will once again watch The Wonder
Years again while sharing Oreos. You get the cream side."
On a personal note, during my teen years my mom struggled with high
blood pressure and heart disease (which we knew she had) and probably
the diabetes that was not on the radar then. A lot of the pressure on
me to never give a moments worry came not only from having a sister
with severe brain damage, but from knowing that saying or doing just
one wrong thing could send our one reliable parent to a premature
grave. At one point one of her friends raped me, using a fish gutting
knife on my throat to force me to comply, and then warned me I'd
better not tell because if Mom found out it would kill her. I didn't
say a word even when my period was late and for three weeks I had no
idea whether I was in the family way.
A great big shout out goes out to all the kids and adults (think
Alzheimers) navigating the never well enough charted waters of having
a parent with a serious health problem.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod