The Stuff That Never Happened: Book summary and reviews of The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson

The Stuff That Never Happened

By Maddie Dawson

The Stuff That Never Happened

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About this book

Book Summary

What if you were married to a wonderful husband for twenty-eight years but in love with another man? What if you were in love with them both?

Annabelle McKay knows she shouldn’t have any complaints. She’s been in a stable marriage that’s lasted almost three decades and has provided her with two wonderful children, thousands of family dinners around a sturdy oak table, and a husband so devoted that he schedules lovemaking into his calendar every Wednesday morning. Other wives envy the fact that Grant is not the type of man who would ever cheat on her or leave her for a younger woman. The trouble is Annabelle isn’t sure she wants to be married to Grant anymore. The trouble is she’s still in love with someone else.
 
In the early tumultuous years of her marriage, Annabelle carried on a clandestine affair with the one person whose betrayal would hurt her husband the most. When it ended, she and Grant found their way back together and made a pact that they would never speak of that time again. But now years later, with her children grown and gone, and an ominous distance opening between them, she can’t help but remember those glorious, passionate days and wonder if she chose the right man.
 
Then, when called to New York City to help care for her pregnant daughter, Annabelle bumps into her old lover. Offered a second chance at an unforgettable love, she must decide between the man who possesses her heart and the husband who has stood squarely by her side.

A journey into the what-ifs that haunt us all, The Stuff That Never Happened is an intricate, heartfelt examination of modern marriage that brims with truths about the nature of romantic love.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Dawson writes simply but so clearly and with such detail that the characters feel incredibly real." - Library Journal

"For fans of upmarket hen lit, it's worth a look, but Dawson doesn't deliver enough consistent tension to make the work pop." - Publishers Weekly

"Both tender and exquisite, Maddie Dawson’s triumphant debut, The Stuff That Never Happened, is a pitch-perfect look into the choices we made in our past and the consequences that they carry long into the future. I loved every page." - Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of The One That I Want
 
"What a joy it is to discover Maddie Dawson. In the best storytelling tradition of writers like Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler, Dawson delivers a fast-paced, unflinching, often hilarious novel about the challenges of love, parenthood, and staying true to yourself in a marriage." - Holly Robinson, author of The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir
 
"'I can admit that I went there hungry for the drama of him, that I craved that heightened sense of loving and being loved again,' Maddie Dawson's middleaged heroine confesses.  In trying to make sense of one married woman's relationship to her old flame, The Stuff That Never Happened is a paean to family happiness as much as romance." - Stewart O'Nan, author of Songs for the Missing

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Carol N. (San Jose, CA)
The Stuff . . .
I can’t say I loved every minute of Maddie Dawson’s “The Stuff That Never Happened.” At times it made this reviewer step back, much like the author’s middle-aged heroine, Annabelle. I, too, can identify with the longing for yesterday’s romance. This slow moving character drama flits back and forth between the present and the past, answering the questions. ... Will she leave her husband? Will he leave his wife?

I didn’t have an easy time getting into it, until I finished the first 100 or more pages, then I was hooked and needed to know how it would end. Longing for the one that got away is a common theme in literature, but Maddie Dawson writes with a particular honesty that makes her characters very real and convincing.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Marcia S. (Hendersonville, NC)
Complexity of relationships
With 'The Stuff That Never Happened', Dawson offers a story that should appeal mostly to women of 30 plus but mature young adults could well benefit from the insight that parents did have a life that took place before children came along and they too dealt with ageless issues relationships bring. The marriage of young Annabelle to Grant and how betrayal directed the course of their relationship and future perspectives made for a thought-provoking read. Actions can have far reaching consequences. Should generate good conversations with book clubs.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Dotty G. (Roswell, GA)
The Stuff That Never Happened
This book is a fun, engaging read. The main character, Annabelle, is witty, complex, and at times, naive. Annabelle's relationships with her mother and daughter add another interesting dimension to the plot. This book should be of particular interest to women like me who grew up during the seventies. Although somewhat predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Carrie D-L. (Albany, NY)
A thoughtful, but uneven, look at a modern marriage
"The Stuff That Never Happened" starts off well. I adored the first chapter; it was smart, funny and a good introduction to the character. Then the novel begins flipping back and forth between 2005, when Anabelle and Grant's marriage is floundering with their children now grown, and 1977, when they met. Initially, this alternation helps build suspense and provide an interesting take on the characters. As the novel progresses, however, it starts to fall flat because it becomes more obvious what must happen. The characters begin to fall flat as suspense evaporates.

There are strengths to this novel. Dawson writes conversation quite well, and it is a fast read. I imagine fans of women's fiction will enjoy this thoughtful, but uneven, take on a modern marriage.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Mary P. (Bellingham, WA)
The stuff that never happened
Maddie Dawson's "The Stuff that Never Happened" is first and foremost, an enjoyable read. The author can turn a phrase and encapsulate feelings in few words, often humorously. Because it is written in first person, and definitely from a woman's point of view, I think the audience will probably be limited to women--especially those who have tried to understand "love" in some of its permutations. And if the reader has been in a similar situation, the novel speaks with even more empathy.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Tricia L. (Auburn, WA)
Well-written, but we've seen this before
This is one of the better books about choices and waking up to find ourselves in a position we now are not sure we want to be in. I love the author's writing and the voice is strongly compelling. I don't tend to want to read yet another book about this subject, but this one kept me reading.

...16 more reader reviews

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Maddie Dawson lives in Connecticut. She is happily married.

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