Pros: Wonderful characterization, sense of place & time; incredibly vivid & ‘real’
Rating: 5 out of 5
It’s tough to pin down the genre on John Husband’s Maggie Again. It’s a literary novel set partially in rural America in the 20s and partly in 80s urban New York. There are elements of time travel and the like, however, that could be considered anything from science fiction to fantasy or paranormal—even though the book doesn’t have a ‘feel’ traditionally associated with those genres. Ultimately, genre isn’t important except to make sure you don’t suffer the let-down often felt by those who think they’re reading one specific sort of book, only to discover it contains elements of something else entirely.
In 1926, when Maggie was 16, she moved with her family from rural Cobbler’s Eddy, Indiana, to New York, so her father could work on Wall Street. There she ended up living a largely unfulfilling and often tragic life, until one day a miracle happened. The three friends who’d disappeared after hopping a train to find her in the 20s appeared in New York in the present day—not having aged a day. She takes them in, helping them adjust to modern life, and then arranges for them all to return to their old hometown. But the weird and wild ride has only just begun…
When summed up like that, the story itself seems incredibly simple. Yet what makes it so amazing is the vivid pen with which it’s drawn. Maggie is an incredible individual—a spunky kid in the 20s, and a tough old broad in the 80s. Watching her prepare her friends for the difficulties of modern life, as well as share the miracles of it with them, is incredibly touching. The lengths she goes to in order to help her father realize his dreams are heart-warming. She’s a magnificent heroine for such a novel.
Life in the various eras and locales is bright and true, riveting. The tiniest details of life take on all the importance to the reader that they have to those who are right there, living them. Watching the characters go through culture shock as they travel through time is entrancing and all too real. This is a book that makes time travel feel entirely solid and real, but almost as an afterthought, because the fact of its happening isn’t nearly as important its effects on people and life. And in the process, the concepts of age and experience are explored in some fascinating ways.
I feel as though there’s so much more I want to say, but it’s one of those books that defies description. It isn’t an action-packed thrill-ride. It’s about people, not events. It’s an incredibly beautiful tale that makes you feel as though you’ve traveled through time yourself.