Written in 1953, while Jack Kerouac lived with his mother in Long Island, and first published in 1959 after the success of On the Road, Maggie Cassidy is Jack Kerouac’s account of his life from 1938- 1939, and what some describe as a touching, adolescent love story.
Based around Kerouac’s final years in high school, Jack Duluoz (the fictional character Kerouac presents himself as) speaks frequently of love- something rarely seen in the novels based on the later years of his life. Duluoz is young and idealistic, and much more open to the thoughts of love and marriage.
Maggie Cassidy borders on melodrama at times, as Jack and Maggie encounter problem after problem as they try to fulfill their love for each other. While Kerouac’s sentiments towards their relationship are touching, they are often idealized and overdone.
Kerouac describes Maggie’s touch as “so tender the winds of May would understand and the winds of March wait back.”
After Jack’s graduation, he leaves to start college in New York, and their relationship eventually falls apart.
Early in the novel, Kerouac writes:
"Mag-gie!" the kids are calling under the railroad bridge where they've been swimming. The freight train still rumbles over a hundred cars long, the engine threw the flare on the little white bathers, little Picasso horses of the night as dense and tragic in the gloom comes my soul looking for what was there that disappeared and left, lost, down a path- the gloom of love. Maggie, the girl I loved.
Although Kerouac goes on in other novels to account for relationships with scores of other women, it is never with the same sense of innocent sweetness found in Maggie Cassidy.
The character of Maggie was based on Mary Carney. He spent a great deal of his life longing for her, and allegedly asked her to marry him shortly before his death. She turned him down.
In the same year Maggie Cassidy was published, he also published Doctor Sax, Mexico City Blues, and Visions of Cody.