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The Stuff That Never Happened

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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.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Maddie Dawson

10 books1,225 followers
I'm the author of eleven novels about love, crazy families, secrets, parenthood, and--yes, they have happy endings and some laughs as well as tears. (Just like life.) My newest, SNAP OUT OF IT, comes out on Jan. 3, 2023.

Also by me: The Magic of Found Objects, A Happy Catastrophe, Matchmaking for Beginners, The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World and A Piece of Normal.
My first novel, What Comes After Crazy, was written under the name Sandi Kahn Shelton.

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5 stars
939 (19%)
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3 stars
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1 star
66 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 483 reviews
Profile Image for Girls Gone Reading.
80 reviews40 followers
October 5, 2010
The Stuff that Never Happened took a hold of me early, and it never let me know. I was initially intrigued by the mystery of the plot: What could their big secret be? What could be so bad in your marriage that you would rather just ignore it? But the mystery aspect of the novel was just enough to get me into the plot. Then Annabelle and the fantastic story took over.

Usually, I have a little trouble with narrators. Sometimes I find them frustrating. Sometimes I wish they would turn right when they go left. Usually, I feel like they are friends that I just can’t control. Annabelle was not in my control, but Maddie Dawson did such a great job of letting me in her head that I could truly picture her. I could see why she would react the way that she did. Throughout the majority of the novel Annabelle was described so well that her movements were not predictable, but they were relatable. I rooted for Annabelle. I rooted for her whole family. I wanted to see them win and make it all work.

I have not been married as long as Annabelle and Grant, but already I can see how a good marriage could turn out badly. I love my husband, but marriage is hard work (daily) and at every turn you and your partner could lose sight of the prize. Maddie Dawson did such an excellent job with The Stuff that Never Happened because you see deep into another couple’s marriage. You understand it. She took marriage apart, and then she let her characters put it back together. I enjoyed this book tremedously, and I hope you do too.
21 reviews
February 5, 2011
I cant believe how many people rated this book so favorably and said they enjoyed and even liked the characters. I found the main character incredbily self absorbed and selfish. The betrayal of her young husband was just disgusting to me and the fact that she continued to perseverate on the other man for so many years while she was still married, seemed so unfair to her husnad. However, I didnt really like Grant or Jeremiah that much either.
The book was an easy read and had some enjoyable parts but I couldnt get past the subject matter. I also found it very predictible and depressing.
Profile Image for Meghan.
37 reviews14 followers
May 8, 2011
this book was about 100 pages (i'm guessing because i read it on my kindle) too long!!! not only that, but the narrator was SO annoying! if she was a friend of mine, but i highly doubt that i would be friends with a woman such as annabelle, i would've taken her by he shoulder & shaken her! i definitely would have asked her WTH she was thinking. not for what she did as a young, newly married woman, but for the way she let it affect the rest of her life... as a wife, as a mother, as a person. how could you POSSIBLY allow the mere THOUGHT of someone, that treated you so badly, to alter your appreciation, or lack thereof, for the life you're currently leading?!?!?!?! and the main problem in her marriage is LACK OF COMMUNICATION!!! how could you go so many years, expecting someone to change, or to treat you differently, but never express your DESIRE for the person to treat you differently? FRUSTRATING!!!!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jo Anne B.
235 reviews19 followers
July 10, 2011
I ended up really loving this honest portrayl of a woman torn between two men. I almost put it down in the beginning because I didn't think the characters clicked but I am glad I stuck with it. Turns out the reason I almost stopped reading this was the reason for the story in the first place.

Anabelle, a fifty year old empty nester, takes a look back at her marriage of 28 years to Grant. With the kids gone she is not getting the attention and love she needs from her husband who is a boring, rigid professor and labor historian. He is writing a novel and very busy while she feels ignored and lonely so she wonders "what if"? She fantasizes about Jermiah, Grant's best friend that she cheated on him with when they first got married.

Annabelle feels like her marriage to Grant lacks the passion, sex, and spontaneity that her and Jeremiah had. She recounts the first time she met Grant at a party, which he never usually goes to, and they have completely different personalities. Grant seemed too serious and mature for a college student and Annabelle came off as a wannabe feminist.

And she marries him 6 months later! With the way he proposed, how could she have said no? I was shocked that he felt so deeply about Annabelle because he seemed stoic and not emotional. But when he spoke of his feelings for Annabelle and spilled his heart to her it brought tears to your eyes at how beautiful it was and made your heart melt. But he is old fashioned, well-mannered and wants to be a provider and keep Annabelle safe, so rather than tending to his newlywed, he puts his career first and leaves her in the background. So she cheats on him with his exciting best friend that spends all of his time with her while her new husband never sees her.

Fast forward 26 years and Grant is still Grant, putting his work ahead of Annabelle and she is wondering is she would have been better off with Jeremiah. She ends up seeing him again while tending to her pregnant daughter and she makes some very important discoveries that reassure her of her marriage.

I loved how real this book was. These were situations that people go through all the time and they are heart breaking and life changing. This book was filled with love, passion, family, friendships, and self discoveries.

There are several lessons to be learned from this book and one of them is to not to make the same mistake Annabelle had once made and misinterpret something as boring when it is really packed with emotion.
Profile Image for Beth.
154 reviews31 followers
April 23, 2015
I really enjoyed this entire book. It was sweet and charming and the situations and characters and dialogue all felt real to me.

This book goes back and forth between the late 1970s and 2005. Annabelle impulsively marries a nice guy who she barely knows when she is 21 years old and then ends up having a very serious love affair with a married man. 28 years later, Annabelle is still married to her husband Grant and as the book unfolds we find out all the stuff that happened...and all the stuff that didn't.

Literature is like looking at paintings - some things you like, some things you don't. There was something about this book that just appealed to me - perhaps it was the humor which kept even the heavy moments light.

July 22, 2016
WARNING: I really tried to stay vague, but there are a few lines of my review that border on spoilers.

I went back and forth between 2 and 3 stars with this book. I have no issue with the author's writing, or even the style, although some people may struggle with the narration.

Upon reflection, the reasons I didn't care for this book is most likely because of my own personal, morals and convictions. Because no two people have the exact same convictions and/or moral code, I don't know if my review will help others, but here it is anyway...

Reading The Stuff That Never Happened was like watching a marriage start on a bad path and never got off. It's pretty terrifying because you see how quickly and easily it happens. Books like this make it abundantly clear why the divorce rate in America is so high.

The author introduces a few characters to serve as voices of reason and guidance (friends, family members, a therapist, etc.) The reason for the low rating is because I didn't see one ounce of good advice come from a single one of these characters. It scares me to think that anyone out there would read this book and apply ANYTHING to their own relationship.

The ending was the most disturbing. The characters apologize for their wrongdoing in the marriage and the author gives us an "all's well that ends well" sort of ending. However, this new found marital foundation is based 100% on a lie. Annabelle did a LOT more than just have coffee with Jeremiah. So let's not pretend the book ends with a relationship finally based on honesty, trust and respect. I know The Stuff That Never Happened is fiction, not a guide to marriage, but I couldn't help but feel that Maddie Dawson was using the character and the story to endorse a very selfish and unhealthy guideline for marriage. In my opinion, the facts tell us the book ended with the couple adding one more lie to the fire, and yet the author's tone is positive and upbeat.

I 100% believe that you can become a better person because of a fictional story and that you can be inspired by fictional characters and that their words can change the way you live. Fiction writers have that power and so many use it to make a positive difference in the world. I can't say that for Maddie Dawson or The Stuff That Never Happened. In fact, I think this book is the complete opposite.

My fear is that a woman out there who is struggling in her marriage will take Maddie Dawson's guidelines for marriage and apply them to her situation. That's why I gave this book a low rating. This book didn't make me mad, but it did make me sad for all the married couples like Grant and Annabelle who can't communicate and don't have anyone speaking truth into their lives. Please don't apply any of this to your actual relationship!
Profile Image for Catherine McKenzie.
Author 23 books4,530 followers
April 22, 2014
Really glad I picked this up. Maddie Dawson has a great way with character; the main character here is just as realistic as a slightly lost, a little wild twenty-year old as she is as a down to earth fifty year old. Recommend.
540 reviews26 followers
August 9, 2017
Okay – so there are all of the famous sayings, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”; “You always want what you can’t have”, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder”, etc., but what if 26 years ago you crossed the fence without thinking and your world almost blew apart? What if your husband was good enough and strong enough to forgive your past discretions if you promise to walk the straight and narrow? What happens when the one you’ve dreamed about for the past 26 years is finally standing right in front of you again? That is a lot of “what ifs”, but what if you don’t have the guts to say no?

This was an excellent story of what a lack of communication in a marriage can cause. It is hard to say “I’ll love you forever” when you are 20 because, let’s face it, what 20-year-old really knows who they are yet? Having been in a marriage for 40+ years, this story was a bit unsettling for me given the amount of actions performed on a whim by young and old alike, without thought of repercussions. I would like to think that people are more sensible than that, but I also realize today’s world seems to be a bit narcissistic, which explains the “what’s in it for me” attitude throughout the story.

All in all, the story shows fallible people in an imperfect world trying to make sense of life. And in the end, isn’t that what all of us are doing -- trying to abide? Hoping to find happiness and seeking contentment in a life lived? Maybe the key to a successful life and a successful relationship is not to spend much time thinking about the stuff that never happened.
Profile Image for Allison.
Author 11 books1,669 followers
April 20, 2010
A beautifully written look into the choices we make in our past and the consequences that they carry long into the future. I really enjoyed this one.
Profile Image for Shannon.
35 reviews
February 12, 2011
This book was full of amazing quotes that will resonate with me for awhile. My favorite parts: "I tell her the thing I truly believe - that sex and love and parenthood and complications can coexist, that you can be happy even when sex is something you steal away for once you've gotten the last of the dishes washed and the kid with the fever to finally go to sleep. But then my throat is suddenly clogged up with so much sadness and longing and regret that I think I will choke. It's because of today, because of all the jumbled stuff Jeremiah stirred up in me - memories of that raw, yearning sexuality that Sophie is talking about, the youth and passion that she has no idea I even know about. I won't have that again. That's the truth of it. It will not come again, not in this lifetime......I know that restraint was actually the best thing that could have happened, and that I am going to be all right, and that it's okay to still love Jeremiah just a little, or even a lot, and yet not do anything about it."

Some readers may be more than a bit offended by this book, as it deals with the narrator, Annabelle's, extramarital affair and her lifelong conflicting feelings for and between her husband, Grant, and her lover, Jeremiah. For me, it grabbed ahold quickly and never let go.
Profile Image for Pam.
565 reviews12 followers
May 25, 2011
This was an excellent book, I feel like I could go on reading about Grant and Annabelle forever. I want to read about them growing old together. The story is told in alternating chapters between the beginning of Grant and Annabelle's marriage in the 1970's and currently, 2005 as they face the trials of begin married 20+ years.

What makes this book work so successfuly is the characterization. I really feel that Grant and Annabelle are fully fleshed characters. I understand why they do what they do. When they are falling in love and struggling with the beginnings of their marriage, it makes sense, it feels real. When Annabelle falls in love with another man, it's believable and it doesn't present her as an evil person. You completely understand why she does what she does.

Since she is also telling the story in 2005, you know that her and Grant stay together. So, while reading the part of the affair, you are constantly trying to figure out what happens, how will the affair end, how does she keep Grant?

Above all else, this is a love story. Not a flashy, whirlwind love story, but a solid, real life love story. It would make an excellent movie.
Profile Image for Karen Skinner.
63 reviews14 followers
October 17, 2011
"I know this feeling: It's a cousin of the mood that made me cry among the pork chops." This book may not resonate for you if you have never wept in the aisles of Whole Foods, but so far I am eagerly picking it up in my spare moments. There's a mother who dabbles in art, and there's a daughter who is going to be a mother. There's a lot more but those are my basic requirements.
Profile Image for Maison Koala.
205 reviews6 followers
November 8, 2020
Annabelle e Grant stanno per diventare nonni. La loro storia matrimoniale è segnata dal tradimento di lei ennemila anni prima. Un giorno, per caso, lei si imbatte nel suo amante di allora e a questo punto...

è come un fazzoletto imbevuto di cloroformio sul naso che si sprigiona per 376 lunghissime, soporifere, noiosissime pagine.

Due stelle e non la mezza che vorrei perché mi rendo conto che in secondo lockdown, in zona rossa, il mio giudizio potrebbe essere un tantiiiino esasperato e tranchant, vedete un po’...
Profile Image for Sonia.
569 reviews98 followers
December 20, 2011
Credo che a volte, tra le centinaia di letture in cui siamo immersi durante l'anno, sia un bene trovare una storia che non appartiene al nostro genere, che non avremmo preferito se qualcuno ce ne avesse parlato, di fronte a cui forse avremmo storto il naso.
La trama di Facciamo finta che non sia successo niente mi aveva attratta a suo modo, ma ritrovarmi in quella storia mi aveva fatta sentire un'intrusa: non voglio leggere di storie quotidiane di amori che si trascinano, che forse sfociano in tradimenti, o ancora peggio in tentativi di recupero di un matrimonio ormai agli sgoccioli.
Non ci vedevo nessuna necessità in una storia del genere, nessuna originalità, dato che non sarebbe stata né la prima né l'ultima a raccontare di matrimoni andati a male e delle loro conseguenze, nessuna particolare gioia nell'assistere a questi racconti.
E allora perché mi è così piaciuto? Perché mi sono affezionata a Annabelle e alla sua pazienza, perché ho detestato Grant e la sua indifferenza e ho tremato di fronte alla possibilità della rinascita dell'amore tra Annabelle e Jeremiah?
Perché a pochi passi da quel che si intuiva sarebbe stato un lieto fine mi sono ritrovata felice, serena, emozionata e quasi commossa per il miracolo che stava accadendo?
Ho provato a darmi varie risposte ma mi sa che solo una è quella giusta. Maddie Dawson ha aggredito la mia di indifferenza ricordandomi, mio malgrado, che la lettrice che è in me ha bisogno anche di romanticismo, di amore, di credere nella felicità della vita, di un amore che può durare per sempre. La Dawson ha risvegliato il mio spirito romantico ormai assuefatto a quelle storie d'amore sensazionali, paranormali, fantastiche ai limiti della realtà, dove lui è bello misterioso tenebroso gentile ironico furbetto affascinante tenero e chi più ne ha più ne metta e lei non può che innamorarsi di uno così: perfetto sotto ogni punto di vista.
Amori finti, costruiti a tavolino, banali e scontati.
Provate ad innamorarvi di uno che dopo anni e anni di matrimonio sembra non guardarvi più negli occhi, annoiarsi delle vostre chiacchiere, evitare le discussioni perché sarebbero solo una distrazione dal proprio lavoro, uno che alla passione improvvisa preferisce programmare il sesso una volta alla settimana, sempre lo stesso giorno alla stessa ora.
Si può provare amore di fronte ad un uomo così? O forse ad un certo punto si deve accettare l'idea che il matrimonio sia un prodotto con una data di scadenza, sapendo che dopo quella data niente sarà mai più come una volta?
Non posso dire che la Dawson si sia distinta per uno stile particolare o una trama originale, ma mi ha tenuta sveglia e attenta per il corso delle 395 pagine perché mi ha messo di fronte a una storia matura, vera e probabilmente simile a quella di tante donne sposate ormai da più di vent'anni. Una storia che non farei mai leggere a nessuno al di sotto dei 25, perchè sono sicura che non capirebbe né accetterebbe la scelta di Annabelle.
Eppure, anche se dall'alto dei miei 35 anni sono ben lontana dall'esperienza della protagonista, mi sono ritrovata a comprenderne difficoltà e scelte, e ad apprezzare ogni pagina e ogni decisione.
In questa estate dedicata alle letture più di ogni altra in passato, questa era davvero necessaria: perché mi ha fatto di nuovo credere, e, soprattutto, amare.

lo trovi anche qui:
Profile Image for Silvia Devitofrancesco.
Author 12 books122 followers
November 8, 2014
Grant e Annabelle sono sposati da molti anni, vivono nel New Hampshire e trascorrono un’esistenza monotona e grigia. I figli, Nick e Sophie, ormai sono grandi, hanno le loro vite e vivono lontano, Grant è ossessionato dal libro che sta scrivendo e ad Annabelle, costantemente in preda a crisi di nervi, non resta che fare la donna di casa, trascurata dal marito col quale fa l’amore ogni mercoledì mattina. Le improvvise complicazioni durante la gravidanza della figlia Sophie, permettono ad Annabelle di recarsi a New York per assisterla, ma Sophie non sa che quella città tanto sfavillante è custode di un grande segreto. Proprio lì, ventisei anni prima, la giovane Annabelle ha tradito il marito ed è proprio lì che, per puro caso, si ritroverà faccia a faccia col suo amante che non ha mai dimenticato. Tra luoghi immensi, lacrime, sorrisi, gioie, dolori, incomprensioni e il grande miracolo della Vita, Annabelle ha la possibilità di riflettere sul suo passato e di raccontare la sua storia.

“Annabelle, voglio che tu sappia che averti perso è stata una cosa da cui non mi sono più ripreso. E’ stato il più grande errore che abbia mai commesso. Potrei non avere un’altra occasione per dirtelo.”

L’opera, di genere rosa, si presenta come una celebrazione dell’amore nelle sue diverse forme. I

l libro è colmo d’amore: l’amore coniugale, il più difficile da vivere, continuamente messo alla prova dalle insidie e dagli imprevisti della vita, l’amore adultero, sessualmente appagante, ma capace di lasciare un vuoto incolmabile, l’amore per i figli, bello, puro, genuino, il più autentico.

La protagonista, giunta al traguardo dei cinquant’anni, mette la sua anima a nudo. Senza esitazione, ripercorre gli avvenimenti che la portarono a innamorarsi dell’uomo che l’ha chiesta in moglie e, successivamente, riprova sulla sua pelle la delusione nel prendere coscienza che quel matrimonio non fosse ciò che aveva sempre sognato, poiché non è facile essere la moglie di un uomo per il quale al primo posto, nella sua vita, ci sarà sempre e solo il lavoro.

Questa delusione di fondo è la scintilla che provoca il grande adulterio. Anche Jeremiah soffre a causa di un matrimonio sbagliato e di una’esistenza all’ombra di sua moglie. E’ stato proprio questo a unirli e, successivamente, a separarli.

L’autrice sviluppa tematiche difficili con grande delicatezza. Riesce a fornire un ritratto completo dei personaggi, dando grande importanza al piano psicologico, focalizzandosi sulle reazioni e sui sentimenti.

Lo stile è semplice, lineare e fluido. L’opera è un continuo viaggio nel tempo, tra passato e presente, condotto con magistrale competenza così da non creare confusione nel lettore.

Un romanzo capace di rapire il lettore, di condurlo per mano attraverso le vicende narrate, come qualunque buon libro dovrebbe fare, ma, soprattutto, è in grado di farlo riflettere su quel sentimento meraviglioso e contraddittorio che chiamiamo “Amore”.
Profile Image for Liza M.  Jones.
Author 4 books11 followers
August 14, 2019
Recensione completa su www.pennaecalamaro.com

Questo romanzo mi ha convinto fin dalle prime pagine. Maddie Dawson ha scelto di alternare presente e passato, così sappiamo cosa sta succedendo oggi e, piano piano, quello che è successo tanti anni prima. Sappiamo che Annabelle e Grant sembrano una tranquilla coppia di provincia in attesa del primo nipote e che nei primi anni di matrimonio hanno vissuto a New York. E che a New York è successo qualcosa di grave tra loro. Ed è proprio nella grande mela che la figlia sta per dare alla luce sua figlia. Solo che la gravidanza non va tanto bene, così Annabelle torna sul luogo del delitto.
Da lì, scoprirete da soli cosa succede. Vi dico, però, che Maddie Dawson descrive New York in modo superlativo e che la scrittura è brillante, ironica. Mentre la storia fa riflettere sulla vita di coppia e sul trantran quotidiano, che rischia di affossare ogni slancio personale. Ma è davvero così? La vita si esaurisce nelle incombenze quotidiane e basta?
Per comprendere il messaggio serve credere in due elementi di base: il primo, che il dialogo è fondamentale in una coppia. Due, che va ricercato sempre, a tutti i costi. Anche quando siamo stanchi e non vediamo l’ora di spegnere la luce. In tutti i sensi.
Siete d'accordo?

Recensione completa a questa pagina http://www.pennaecalamaro.com/2019/06...
Profile Image for Rhiannon.
61 reviews39 followers
January 25, 2013
This book freaked me out: it was the first package that was delivered to me in my new apartment. The apartment I just moved into with my boyfriend. With only my boyfriend. Now, I knew when I moved into this boyfriend-only apartment that it would lead to marriage. And I hate marriage. Just generally. Now, I know, I know... "don't hate it til you've tried it," and all that. If you say so.

So, The Stuff That Never Happened arrives, and here's this empty-nesting lady-mom deciding that she's going to cheat on her husband in the opening chapters. Then, the next thing you know she's flashing back to her previous affair in the same marriage twenty years ago.

That's why this book freaked me out. It basically said: "marriage is booooorrrring...." and confirmed what I already know: someday, I will get bored with my marriage...instead of cheating I will write a chicklit novel called Some Things That I Wish Happened and pretend I cheated just like Maddie Dawson did when she wrote The Stuff That Never Happened.


(3.5 stars - story was really good, the flashback characters were great, the daughter was annoying, and the present-day main character was a Mary Sue).
Profile Image for Laura.
193 reviews
February 26, 2011
I really enjoyed this book. Annabelle is about my age and going through some of the same things (not the affair...I promise!) Just that empty next thing. Here's a funny passage:

"...let me tell you: the one with the most free time loses in all marital discussions. It's a given. So, if you're the less busy person, take my advice and fake extreme busyness...."Well, that leaves me out, I'm afraid, because nobody on earth could be busier than Grant"... then you'll have to go to Plan B, which is just to embrace the laziness and kick back and enjoy it. Luxuriate in it. Do your nails, brush your hair, yawn a lot. Take up lounging. It's a path that also has its benefits. Work at lowering people's expectations. That can also be quite effective."

Ha ha.... it was funny to me because my husband loves being busy and is always running around, and I'm embracing the laziness these days....after many many years of busyness!

This book actually made me appreciate my husband more!
Profile Image for Jessica's Book Review.
594 reviews375 followers
July 8, 2018
I am really torn in my review of The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson.

First, I did enjoy the book. I felt like the author was writing the novel as if two girlfriends were just chatting and one was telling the other her relationship story. I liked the easy flow the main character presented her story and felt as if i was living her life with her. Their story was very interesting and so realistic. Most of the time I couldn't put the book down, other times was a bit slow but it's one hell of a story.

The Stuff That Never Happened tells the story over three decades of the relationship, than marriage of Annabelle and Grant. The book begins in present time where Annabelle and Grant have been married for 30 years, they have two children. Grant is a professor and Annabelle draws children's books but has mostly been a SAHM. Grant really puts his entire world into his work and sometimes is just right out rude and dismissive of Annabelle. I felt for her.

As each chapter goes on it goes back and forth from past to present all in Annabelle's POV. The two first meet in the 70's at a college party. During this time Annabelle's personal life is raving havoc. Her parents are separating and no longer paying her tuition or her apartment. She has to drop out but in comes Grant, her knight and shinning armor who lets her stay with him as long as she finishes school. The two grow close and eventually marry. I love their cute, corky relationship. As they move to NYC for Grant's career this is where it begins to change. Grant throws himself into his career and leaves Annabelle all alone. They are living with a colleague of Grant's who seems to be more of a SAHD than colleague. He and Annabelle grow very close and begin an affair.

Now, before you judge... yes it is hard to feel for Annabelle. Grant is a good guy, he just doesn't know how to be a husband AND a professor. Annabelle is all alone in a new city and her only real friend is Jeremiah. I never liked Jeremiah.... he just seemed like he was taking advantage of Annabelle, so it was hard to hear how much she loved him. He seemed very sneaky and scummy. Their affair continues for nearly a year... no one notices and maybe that is the problem with their own marriages.

The story continues and finally it all comes to a head. This is when my heart ached for Grant.. he really is a good guy just not always the best at being an adoring husband. Annabelle really grows as a character during these times. As much as I wanted to hate her, I couldn't.

I loved reading of the transformation between Annabelle as a young bride and now as a 50 year old wife & mother. She really grows and learns from her mistakes.

The only issue I had with the book is some of the chapters were slow... but they were important. I found myself skimming some paragraphs getting to the "good stuff". The Stuff That Never Happened is an adult read. It's mature and and real. I am only 32 but maybe because I was a young bride myself and moved to a state for my husband where I was all alone I could relate to Annabelle. Not excusing her cheating but I could understand it.

If you are looking for a realistic book about marriage that is mature, The Stuff That Never Happened is the book for you. It's raw, realistic, and emotional.

I give The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson, 3.5 Stars.
142 reviews
September 1, 2019
Less appealing subject matter (difficult romantic relationships), but still a good style of writing from the author which I appreciate.
Profile Image for Seawitch.
379 reviews9 followers
July 13, 2021
A surprise - mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, family life and its complications. I found this story very true to the ways loyalty, fidelity and trust can become damaged, entangled and healed in long term relationships.
Profile Image for Pallabi Priyaadarshini.
37 reviews16 followers
February 10, 2019
"You can't ever completely know or completely control another person. And when you make your whole life about trying to figure out what's he doing at any given point then you are going to rob yourself of some of the joy of simply being together. Because ultimately that's what all that matters."
Marriage is like Venn diagram, they are overlapping circles of commitment, parenthood, togetherness, procreation, lies, possessiveness, boredom, efforts and at times a third person.
The book talks about the marriage of a couple who are together for three decades and are on verge of becoming grandparents. The story goes back and forth between the present day and the time when they both had just got married ( which is in their 20s), and one of them ends up getting involved outside marriage. While the affair ends up in a disaster, it causes stirs when the past crops up. It talks about the possibility to continue loving, living, forgiving and standing up and staying with the one who's your better half even when they are the one to hurt you the most, provided you still feel the love.
The book might make readers take sides, sympathize with the one cheated and get angry with the one who has cheated but like its said what makes a person continue with something that seems unacceptable to others is only for the one who's actually going through it.
Profile Image for Leslie.
588 reviews37 followers
June 21, 2016
I had hopes for Maddie Dawson’s The Stuff That Never Happened considering the story is centered around the complicated world of relationships specifically marriage. And yet, about over halfway through the book, it hit me that I’m just basically going through the motions of reading the book with the intent of getting to the finish line. After that realization, it was time to figure out why I wasn’t as engaged in the book as I hoped I would be and it inevitably boils down to what has often happened in the past with other lackluster reads.

It would’ve been so easy if Dawson’s writing was horrible and unreadable, but on the contrary, the writing was good. While in the end the switching between the present and the past got a little tiresome for me, I thought that in general she made good use of the tool where knowing the outcome played into the suspense (for lack of a better term) of how it all came to fruition and actually left you with some doubt as to whether things will resolve happily.

With all that said, this is very much a character(s) driven book/story and unfortunately for me, they never made an impact on me, in the sense that I never truly got to the point where I cared for them. None of them really had that charisma in which to draw me, as a reader, into their story. Probably the only one that came close was Annabelle, but that’s probably due to the fact that she was the one narrating this story so there was a more direct connection to her and her conflicts. Even so, it wasn’t on a level that I was looking for. In fact, I never really liked most of the other casts, especially Annabelle’s daughter Sophie who progressively made reading the rest of the book with scenes she is difficult with how judgemental, whiny, and childish she comes off. She was a big turn off for me in regards to this book. Furthermore, I was never invested or passionate in Annabelle’s and Jeremiah’s affair. There was tension but not on a level where I could buy a woman being so enthralled with as to abandon her new marriage. It didn’t help that I thought there was something off about Jeremiah.

In essence, with a story involving people’s emotions with high stakes and consequences, I expected to read a story with characters that I can form a bond and care for. Unfortunately, I read this book as if I were a robot, not having any sort of connection and therefore lacking any sense of feelings, sympathy or otherwise for any of them (and in certain cases would be considered an irritant). As much as the technical aspects of a book, like writing and plotlines, play a part in my enjoyment of a book, having charismatic characters that draw you into the story plays just as big of a part as those other aspects. This book didn’t and its other positive aspects couldn’t overcome it.
Profile Image for Kathy (Bermudaonion).
802 reviews100 followers
July 30, 2010
When Annabelle and Grant got married, they really didn’t know each other all that well. They moved across the country and lived with another young couple and their two children. Something happens in those early years that will haunt their marriage for the rest of their lives. Rather than talk about it, Grant makes Annabelle agree to never mention it again, and in effect, pretend that it never happened. On the surface, that seems to work – they move to New Hampshire, raise two children and seem to have a happy life. But, once the children are grown and out of the house, Annabelle finds that she can’t let go of the past.

The Stuff that Never Happened by Maddie Dawson is a quiet, introspective novel told from Annabelle’s point of view. The story alternates between the past, when the event happened, and the present day, when the repercussions of pretending it never occurred take place. It’s a powerful book about life and love and living with decisions you’ve made in the past.

Even though I’ve never done what Annabelle did, I found myself relating to her. She was trying to live with a mistake she made in her past, but she was never really able to move past it. She was able to keep it out of her mind while she was busy raising children, but once they were out of the house, she found herself almost obsessing over it. She thinks “maybe this is common. Perhaps the whole human race goes around with an ache like this.”

Dawson does such a good job writing the characters, I could sympathize with Grant and understand his side of things, too. He adored Annabelle and was willing to forgive her, as long as they never spoke of the event that happened again – it was just too painful for him to face. He found himself involved in a project after the children left home, so he didn’t realize the despair Annabelle was going through.

Both characters frustrated me at times, too. I think that’s part of what made the book so fascinating and compelling for me – I didn’t think either one was totally without fault. I was hoping they’d work things out, though, and I found myself rooting for them and wishing they’d make the right decisions along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Stuff That Never Happened and found it to be a fascinating study of the relationships (between spouses as well as children) in a marriage that has suffered in the past. Fans of women’s literature won’t want to miss this book!
Profile Image for Katiuscia.
506 reviews4 followers
May 22, 2015
La mia recensione completa la trovate qua

Annabelle e Grant sono una coppia sposata da quasi 30 anni. Si sono conosciuti all'università, si sono amati, si sono sposati, hanno messo al mondo due figli. Sembrerebbe tutto idiliaco se non fosse che, 26 anni prima, Annabelle tradì il neo-sposo con un Jeremiah, un loro carissimo amico.
Storia superata, crisi accantonata e amore familiare al top, tanto che ora stanno per diventare nonni. Ed è durante una visita alla figlia Sophie che Annabelle incontrerà, per puro caso, proprio Jeremiah.
L'amore passionale che li aveva legati all'epoca è veramente sopito o si risveglierà all'improvviso?

Che poi, diciamocela tutta, quante di noi non hanno un amore chiuso in un cassetto della memoria che rimarrà nascosto lì dentro fino alla fine dei nostri giorni? E non è detto che questo amore - passionale, fisico, emozionale - sia necessariamente quello che stiamo vivendo ora. Magari è stata una storia breve, o una storia duratura, o solamente un battito di ciglia, ma potrebbe averci donato emozioni che, ingenuamente, continuiamo a cercare negli uomini a venire, nelle persone che abbiamo attorno.
E lo stesso discorso vale per i nostri compagni. Figuriamoci se loro non hanno qualche ricordo legato alla loro prima cotta, a quella ragazza che ebbe la fortuna di essere la prima a far loro agitare le famose farfalle nello stomaco.
Non c'è nulla di male, secondo me, a mantenere vivo questo ricordo. Ma cosa fareste - cosa farei - nel caso quel ricordo ricomparisse davanti agli occhi in carne ed ossa?

Libricino con una storia che parte leggera, con uno stile veloce, ironico, accattivante, e che finisce lasciandoci ottimi spunti di riflessione.
327 reviews8 followers
January 12, 2012
I think I wanted to like this more than I did. The cover, for one, is beyond awesome. And the setting, New Hamsphire, is just different enough to evoke intrigue. With those two things going for it I didn't even read the jacket copy, I just swooped it up.

New Hampshire resident Annabelle McKay is having a midlife crisis. With her kids gone and her professor husband Grant working on a novel, she finds herself thinking about an affair she had in her twenties with a man named Jeremiah. The book alternates between the main story -- of Annabelle's unhappiness and current situation taking care of her pregnant daughter in New York -- and the backstory of how she and Grant met and how she and Jeremiah got together.

My frustation, I think, lay in the general bafflement of Annabelle's mindset. It's not a badly written book, but she's supposed to be fifty, yet she possesses no wisdom. She sounds young. Childish, even. It's all sort of me, me, me. At fifty you should've probably gotten a clue that life is hard and other people don't actually exist to serve your moods, or cater to your unvoiced feelings.

Sure, Grant isn't a passionate person, but Jeremiah was a petulant child -- how could you still be thinking about him? I wanted to shake her and tell her to grow up! Get a job! Get a hobby! Quit moping around like some guy's going to solve you.

There were nice passages -- crying in the grocery store. Having someone you once knew still exist in the corners of your mind. Things like that. There's truth somewhere in some of these pages, but not enough of it surfaced in any kind of palpable way. Also -- and this is a nitpick -- the dialogue was staggering in volume, and often, it seemed, unnecessary.
16 reviews3 followers
June 13, 2010
I loved this novel, about the "what-if" person who enters our minds unbidden but can't be forgotten--and almost every woman I know has a person like that. It reads so true.

"Maybe this is common. Perhaps the whole human race goes around with an ache like this. Maybe we're all dreaming of a person from the tantalizing past who sits there, uninvited, watching from the edge of our consciousness, somebody you find packing up and moving out of your head just as you're waking up in the morning, and whose essence clings to you all day as though you have spent the night with him, wandering off together somewhere among the stars, making out on strangers' couches and in train stations and football stadiums, laughing over things that make no sense at all.

Oh crap--so now you see why I don't speak of him. I do it so badly. It comes out all wrong, goopy and sentimental. Only my best friend, Magda, even knows the whole extent of things, and she only dimly understands the trade-offs I have made; she knows the pact I made with Grant, she knows that the heart of love is good no matter where it lives inside you, and I suspect she also knows that months go by in which I am sustained by the firm, warm hand of Jeremiah reaching out to me while I sleep, even while I am snuggled close to Grant, who is snoring softly beside me, most likely dreaming of people marching in lines, carrying picket signs that say 'On Strike.'"

I read this in galley form, and I highly recommend it for readers who love women's fiction.
Profile Image for Jules.
168 reviews36 followers
August 10, 2016
3.5 stars

This book had a real feel to it. Loved the messages about marriage and the mother and daughter heart-to-heart conversations. Sadly, I couldn't feel the connection between her and Grant. He seemed self-absorbed and selfish. He was always working. How could a college professor be that busy.

Favorite passage:

"Sophie, this is going to sound weird, but I think you're just going to have to get comfortable with the idea of living with some uncertainty in your relationship with your husband. You can't ever completely know or completely control another person. And when you make your whole life about trying to figure out what he's doing at any given point -- well, then I think you're going to rob yourself of some of the joy of simply being together. Because ultimately that's all that matters."

"But what if love, as you say, 'just comes' for him?" she asks. "What if he ends up loving somebody else and wanting to leave me?"

"And what if he does? Anything can happen, darling. That's what life is -- uncertain and crazy, " I say to her. "You'll survive it if it happens. But remember that you have a shot of keeping it from happening if you let yourself truly love him instead of just trying to control him. Let him know how valued he is instead of how suspicious you are of his every waking moment."

13 reviews4 followers
September 13, 2016
Not bad

Not a bad read about real possible family situations, mostly the relationships to be had after getting married. I didn't love the end.
Profile Image for A. R..
Author 3 books44 followers
October 27, 2011
If it hadn't been for the language in this book I would have given it four stars. I'm picky in how much profanity I will tolerate in a book and this was one had a little too much.

But putting that aside - I thought The Stuff That Never Happened was a very interesting look at marriage and extramarital affairs. An interesting look at what constitutes real solid love over the passionate, rip your clothes off kind of excitement. I found myself asking if the later was truly love or just an adrenaline rush. I found the portrayal of a long time marriage accurate and wonderfully portrayed. And found myself really rooting for Grant (the husband) even with his reserved understated personality (actually reminded me of my own husband).

The pacing was good and the writing well done. There were moments of laughing, shaking my head at character's stupidity and moments of emotion as characters worked at and grew through their experiences. Overall a good read. If language doesn't bother you I would recommend it!

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