Everyone deserves a second chance. Just one of many positive, take home messages from Frances Maynard in her second novel, appropriately titled, Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance.

Maggsie is a ferocious character who the reader wills to keep doing the right thing despite her rough start in life. On the surface, angry ex-con, Maggsie, with a large chip on her shoulder seems an unlikely character to like but it is impossible not to as, on release from prison, she tries to negotiate her year of probation and stay on the straight and narrow. Her journey is not helped by her dyslexia which Maggsie is eager to tell the reader in her conversational style does not make her thick. Of course, anyone with a knowledge of dyslexia will know this but Maggsie has never learnt to read and write and it is only when a caring fellow prisoner, prior to her release, teaches her the basics that she starts to slowly believe she could do it. Will this skill most take for granted really help Maggsie stay out of prison this time?

Maynard’s character faces other challenges of course but there is something beautiful and gratifying about the way the seemingly simple acts of holding down a dish-washing job for a week, befriending a stray cat and making a true friend in loveable TJ starts to take Maggsie towards a life she never thought possible, all the while chalking off the days on her free calendar from the workplace she didn’t think she was good enough for.

No novel could be such plain sailing though, and she does face a crisis which teaches her about trust and what doing the right thing really is before the book concludes.

Maynard uses her carefully constructed character to teach the reader to be grateful for the small things through her enigmatic protagonist and clever first person narrative which, at times, speaks directly to the reader drawing them in still further to Maggsie’s life and problems. It is a life most of us can’t imagine but one which makes us feel a little warmer inside for hearing it.