Book Review: The Stuff That Never Happened – Maddie Dawson

Title: The Stuff That Never Happened: A Novel
Author: Maddie Dawson
ISBN: 9780307393678
Pages: 336
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Publisher: Crown
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Annabelle McKay and her husband Grant have been married for thirty years, and for almost all that time, they have been living in the shadow of one “thing”, something that happened long ago that they’ve made a pact never to mention again.  Annabelle begins to realize how much of a toll that pact has made on their marriage, as she contemplates whether she’s really in love with Grant and her certainty that he still blames her for what happened. 

Review:

It was the cover that first attracted me to Maddie Dawson’s The Stuff That Never Happened.  As superficial as that is, I’m more likely to pick up a book if I love the cover than if I don’t.  With The Stuff That Never Happened, the cover was immediately reminiscent of Allison Winn Scotch and Julie Buxbaum, so I wondered if Dawson’s ability to tell a story was similar.  I’m thrilled to say it is.  Maddie Dawson has that rare gift of taking a seemingly ordinary story about a woman and elevating it to something else entirely.

Dawson writes with such grace and wisdom, it’s difficult to believe this is her first novel.  Like Scotch and Buxbaum, her writing has a literary quality that makes the book more sophisticated.  Annabelle’s musings are deep and thoughtful, and her emotions are raw.  The reader can feel the depths of her despair and loneliness as she travels the “what-if” paths of her life.  It’s difficult to reflect on thirty years and wonder where your mistakes were, which direction your life should have taken.  It’s a feat that Dawson accomplishes masterfully, without the usual self-indulgence that accompanies it.

Annabelle is in a very different stage of life than I am, so while I couldn’t exactly understand what she was going through, she was a very sympathetic character.  She certainly made some bad decisions along the way.  Oftentimes, I was cringing, just waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it inevitably would.  Annabelle is frank about her mistakes and doesn’t try to rationalize when telling her story.  I appreciated that she could tell the truth to herself, rather than trying to justify it in her head – it made the entire situation more bearable.

Maddie Dawson is a gifted writer, and The Stuff That Never Happened was a great read from beginning to end.  I loved how Dawson wrapped it up, how one of the end messages is the importance of communication, above all.  It was an exceptional debut novel and I really look forward to seeing what subject Dawson chooses to tackle next.

Comments

  1. I have read a couple of good reviews of this book, but I have lingering doubts. In real life, I get frustrated with people who spend energy reflecting back on “what if” and what went wrong. It can’t be changed, so why stew about it? It just makes me wonder if I would get frustrated with this character as well.

  2. I have read a couple of good reviews of this book, but I have lingering doubts. In real life, I get frustrated with people who spend energy reflecting back on “what if” and what went wrong. It can’t be changed, so why stew about it? It just makes me wonder if I would get frustrated with this character as well.

  3. I am much closer to Annabelle’s age and I still had a very hard time relating to her. Besides that, I thought the writing was excellent and I, too, look forward to more from this author!

  4. I am much closer to Annabelle’s age and I still had a very hard time relating to her. Besides that, I thought the writing was excellent and I, too, look forward to more from this author!

  5. I think this book sounds like something I might like. Though I am sure that the main character has issues that I do not, it sounds like the writing style and the story are too interesting to pass up. I am going to have to look into grabbing myself a copy. Thanks for the great review of this book!

  6. I think this book sounds like something I might like. Though I am sure that the main character has issues that I do not, it sounds like the writing style and the story are too interesting to pass up. I am going to have to look into grabbing myself a copy. Thanks for the great review of this book!

  7. Just mentioning Dawson’s writing style is reminiscent of Buxbaum is enough to sell me! This sounds like one I would enjoy, and I love the cover, too.

  8. Just mentioning Dawson’s writing style is reminiscent of Buxbaum is enough to sell me! This sounds like one I would enjoy, and I love the cover, too.

  9. I am totally with you on the cover and I wish more publishers would pay attention to them. I thought this book was great too!!

  10. I am totally with you on the cover and I wish more publishers would pay attention to them. I thought this book was great too!!

  11. I love the cover too! I think I will give this a try!

  12. I love the cover too! I think I will give this a try!

  13. Dear Swapna, Thank you for such a wonderful review of my book–and for taking such care in your reading of it. I loved writing about Annabelle, even though she has a lot of flaws. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t just living in the past but was honestly trying to fix her life and move forward into the future. You “got” the book so well…and that’s always so gratifying. It’s scary to write about these characters and then send them out into the world!
    And to all of you who left a comment, thank you! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did, writing it. And now back to writing the next one…
    All best wishes,
    Maddie

  14. Dear Swapna, Thank you for such a wonderful review of my book–and for taking such care in your reading of it. I loved writing about Annabelle, even though she has a lot of flaws. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t just living in the past but was honestly trying to fix her life and move forward into the future. You “got” the book so well…and that’s always so gratifying. It’s scary to write about these characters and then send them out into the world!
    And to all of you who left a comment, thank you! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did, writing it. And now back to writing the next one…
    All best wishes,
    Maddie

  15. I have this book on my pile, and I was thinking I’d like it, but your review seals it. Of course, I could only skim it, because of my “no reading reviews” policy, but I’m glad you like it, and I think I could relate pretty well to this character.

  16. I have this book on my pile, and I was thinking I’d like it, but your review seals it. Of course, I could only skim it, because of my “no reading reviews” policy, but I’m glad you like it, and I think I could relate pretty well to this character.

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