WRITER Christine Makepeace PUBLISHER Independent AVAILABLE Now
This is an interesting debut from Christine Makepeace. The literary influences which formulate Wake Up, Maggie are familiar and nostalgic, yet the author still successfully adds something new to the genre. The plot is intentionally basic: when narrator and lead protagonist Maggie reluctantly moves from Maine to Connecticut with her husband Duncan, she senses a haunting presence slowly growing in their new home. Soon, Maggie is forced to question her sanity and the trustworthiness of her reality, while redefining her own morality and coming to terms with the death of her brother, David. This ambiguity forces the reader to question the credibility of the narrator and how the events, past and present, should be understood. In short, we have a text grounded in Gothic literature and turned upside-down by an unorthodox Maggie.
The storyline is simple, but Maggie is complex. She is, on the one hand, Mina Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula; a helpless female narrator, incapable of taking control of her own destiny and stopping the supernatural antagonist who stalks her: “She had to escape. She had to get out. She had to claw her way from the depths of this prison.” Maggie even refers to Duncan as her “jailer”, which emphasises that her oppression is the result of influences both from the spiritual and mortal plains.
On the other hand, Maggie is also a strong female antagonist. She frequently refers to herself as both a god and a goddess, takes pride in her manipulative nature and enjoys her control over the people around her: “[Marrying Duncan] was a calculated move in the same way predators picked off the weakest member of the group, more instinct than savagery.” In Dracula, Van Helsing claims that: “A brave man’s blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble.” Duncan, however, is not this hero of classic Gothic literature. Instead, Duncan is just a passive backseat driver, while Maggie can be measured against the female leads in the likes of Audition, Dolores Claiborne, Battle Royale and Gone Girl. As the narrator reiterates: “She was born to be the villain.”
The fact that Maggie is the lone narrator and the driving force behind the events of the plot tell us that, ultimately, she is the ‘jailer’ and the haunted house in which “her torments live in the floorboards, the furniture, the water” is a ‘prison’ of tortured memories rather than one that is inhabited by a vengeful spectre. Maggie can therefore be understood as both the victim and the oppressor, to herself and the characters around her. The haunting itself can be contextualised in the tradition of Edgar Alan Poe, where a single narrator’s interpretation of events can be openly debated but never conclusively established.
Although some scenes border on nothing more than verbal sparring matches between Maggie and Duncan, Makepeace delivers a deep insight into her character’s psyche, reminiscent of Paul Auster’s Sunset Park or Bret Eaton Ellis’s American Psycho. This is an audacious effort that should be given praise for its unrepentant Maggie, who is portrayed by the author with fearless honesty and supreme confidence.