The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson – Book Review

The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson
Published by Shaye Areheart Books, an imprint of Random House

Every life is bound to have some regret, and Annabelle McKay’s life is no exception. She loves her husband Grant, of course, but she also loves Jeremiah, a man from her past. Now that Grant and Annabelle’s children are gone, either off to college or married and expecting a child, she isn’t sure exactly what she and Grant are doing together. He’s distant, more interested in his book than in Annabelle. The growing gulf between them leads Annabelle to think more and more about Jeremiah, and what might have been. She promised Grant twenty-six years ago that they would never speak again of what was between her and Jeremiah, but they just may have to confront it sooner rather than later.

I thought this was a very good debut novel. Dawson does a good job weaving past into the present, and developing Annabelle’s character while simultaneously developing the plot. I might have liked to see more depth for the men in Annabelle’s life, but since we were seeing everything from her perspective and she didn’t have a very good grasp on them herself, so it would have been unrealistic for us to have a better understanding of Grant or Jeremiah.

I got frustrated with Annabelle from time to time, because she certainly made some bad decisions, but I also empathized with her to a certain extent, because she often felt trapped by the circumstances of her life. Not trapped in the sense that she had no choices, but trapped in the sense that she was not where she wanted to be and she wasn’t sure that she knew how to change her life.

The writing, characterization, and story were all quite good, but “The Stuff That Never Happened” fell ever so slightly short of ‘love’ for me. I would, however, recommend this for fans of literary women’s fiction.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
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This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
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10 comments to The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson – Book Review

  • Actually after reading your review, I think we did agree about this novel in many ways — I’m not sure that you did like it more than I did! :) It was a very strong debut and I wouldn’t hesitate to read another work by this author.

  • I liked this one as well. Annabelle definitely frustrated me sometimes, but never to the point I disliked her or couldn’t sympathize with her.

  • This book seems to be falling into the middle dead zone for me. I am not sensing a whole lot of love for the book, just some like.

  • I really liked this book and could relate to Annabelle even though she is totally different from me. I think we all wonder “what if?” from time to time. Great review!

  • I so want to read this one…sounds like a scenario that happens more often than not to those whose children have grown up and left, and the two spouses wonder what next?

  • Kay

    I’m looking forward to reading this one soon too. I agree with what Staci said above. It seems to be happening to our friends a lot. Kids all gone, the couple either really bonds and loves it or wonders what to do now? Happily, we seem to be the bonding type. LOL

  • Thank you so much, “Devourer of Books,” for the many kind, thoughtful things you said about my book. It’s always so gratifying to see the characters that lived in my head out interacting with others in the world! I share your frustration with Annabelle; she was definitely a flawed, mistake-ridden character–and it sounds funny, I know, to act as though I didn’t create her, which I certainly did. But there’s a way when you’re writing a book that the character takes on a life of her own, and in this case, Annabelle kept acting the way she acted whether I agreed with her or not! I definitely did see her as a product of her crazy, 1970’s-unstable family life and that she didn’t really know how to love Grant until…well, until she learned. And her reactions to being shut out by him were so extreme!! That’s the way with characters sometimes. You gave such a nice, well-rounded review of the book, and I am so grateful to you for taking the time to read it so carefully and seriously.
    Julie, thank you for your further comment. I so appreciate your remarks!
    S. Krishna, THANK YOU! I, too, was frustrated by her–but totally sympathetic to what she was going through.
    Sandy, I think “like” is sometimes the best that difficult, thorny characters can hope for. :-) And that’s okay. Annabelle is not everybody’s cup of tea.
    Kathy, you have summed up the book better than anyone! I love that you saw through the layers of Annabelle and Grant and were able to put it into words so succinctly and perfectly. Thank you so much for your review on your site.
    Staci, you are so right! That’s happening in our circle a bit, too. Couples either seem to start fighting more, or being more distant, or else they rediscover themselves and start to have more fun than ever.
    Kay, glad to hear you’re the bonding type. We are, too! My husband is kind of looking at this book with, “Hey, what’s going on here?” LOL! But I think you can only write about something like this if you’re NOT going through it, contrary to what most people think.
    Anyway, thank you all for your great comments! I wish I could meet you in person and we could discuss marriages and bad characters and what happens when people grow apart.

  • Something about this book is really calling out to me! I have to read this one :)

  • I still can’t make up my mind about reading this. But because you commented on the good writing and characterization, I should give it a shot.

  • I’ve wanted to read this since it appeared one of my “Recommended For You” page on Amazon. After reading numerous glowing reviews from bloggers, I decided to add it to my “must buy” list.