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Review: The Stuff That Never Happened

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!

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.


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51 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2010 6:31 am

    I just added this book to my wish list yesterday; sounds so good.

  2. July 30, 2010 7:07 am

    I’ve got to read this one. It sounds like just the sort of book that I like to wrestle with, in a manner of speaking. LOL Thanks for sharing!

  3. July 30, 2010 7:46 am

    You have intrigued me with your review. I’m going to have to put it on my TBR list.

  4. July 30, 2010 8:07 am

    Great review! I had so many issues with Annabelle. I think it would make a fantastic discussion book!

  5. July 30, 2010 8:46 am

    Oooh…you’ve made this one sound intruiging! And I love the cover, so I’ll have to check it out.

  6. July 30, 2010 8:51 am

    Great review! I’m starting this one this afternoon, so I’m glad to see you enjoyed it.

  7. July 30, 2010 9:19 am

    I am questioning whether I would be able to relate with Annabelle. I am a fan of picking up and moving on, and not dwelling on the past. Really excellent review. I’ll keep this one in the maybe stack.

  8. July 30, 2010 9:31 am

    I’m really curious about what she did! To me, though, saying “never mention it” would be enough to make me think about it all the time!

  9. July 30, 2010 9:33 am

    Sounds like a good selection for a book club. I can just imagine the discussions.

  10. July 30, 2010 9:42 am

    I do want to know what happened! Hmm, might be a good one to cozy up with this weekend — I love the quiet stories that gently develop!

  11. July 30, 2010 9:57 am

    I like the sound of this book and I love the cover… she literally looks like she’s distraught about the stuff that never happened!

  12. July 30, 2010 10:15 am

    I really like the premise of this book – and it sounds as though the author does a great job of developing the characters in a way that we can relate to them.

  13. July 30, 2010 10:15 am

    This does sound like a good book club suggestion…I am going to have to remember this one. The idea of it sounds fascinating. I have never done this either, but I have def. thought about it. Life does appear to be easier when we ignore certain things. Those events do always catch up with us though…I hope they work it out too!

  14. July 30, 2010 10:20 am

    I am going to add this to my reading list. It sounds like it has a really unusual plot and interesting characters. You wrote a really great review on it, Kathy! Thank you!

  15. July 30, 2010 10:28 am

    Thanks for the warm welcome, Kathy. Hope you are doing good:)

  16. July 30, 2010 11:13 am

    great review! i see myself getting pulled into the book by just reading your review of it. i’m adding it to the ever growing list.

  17. July 30, 2010 11:36 am

    Terrific review! The book sounds quite appealing to me. Have a great weekend, Kathy. 🙂

  18. July 30, 2010 1:00 pm

    Great review – thank you so much for not spoiling it with telling us “the stuff” (I was worried there for a minute!). Just from the description, it reminds me a bit of Revolutionary Road (one of my favorite books).

    Putting this one on my TBR list. Thank you!

  19. July 30, 2010 1:05 pm

    I love books about marriages for some reason. They always fascinate me, the way the dramas play out. So since you liked it I will be adding this one to my list!

  20. July 30, 2010 1:23 pm

    The book definitely sounds good and also has a beautiful cover as well.

  21. July 30, 2010 2:02 pm

    Sounds wonderful…here goes another to be added to my wish list.

  22. July 30, 2010 2:06 pm

    Sometimes reading about other’s marriages can be painful, especially if they’ve done stupid things. And, who hasn’t. On the other hand, it can sometimes be therapeutic, if the writer has done a good job.

  23. July 30, 2010 2:19 pm

    It will be interesting to read a book about characters trying to move on inspite of earlier mistakes. Isn’t that always hard – you always wish you could undo it. This one sure sounds fascinating from your amazing review!

  24. Kathleen permalink
    July 30, 2010 3:23 pm

    I’ve got to read this one and find out what the heck they weren’t supposed to speak about ever again!

  25. July 30, 2010 3:39 pm

    This book is my type of dysfunctional reading…another great review!!!

  26. brendabh permalink
    July 30, 2010 4:39 pm

    Great review. I would love to read this book and have added to my wish list.
    Thanks for introducing me to Maddie Dawson and The Stuff that Never Happened.

  27. Beth Hoffman permalink
    July 30, 2010 4:39 pm

    Great review, Kathy! I will have to add this to my list.

  28. July 30, 2010 5:43 pm

    This story sounds very, very compelling!

  29. July 30, 2010 8:14 pm

    Your review makes the book a must read for me!

  30. July 30, 2010 8:46 pm

    Ok, on the list it goes. Nice review, Kathy!

  31. July 30, 2010 9:07 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this one and it sounds really good. I love introspective, character-driven novels. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  32. July 30, 2010 9:09 pm

    Great review! This sounds like a really interesting review.

  33. July 30, 2010 11:40 pm

    Wow, Kathy! I am so impressed at the way you described my book, and I just want to thank you for posting this–and for all the lovely comments from your readers. I happen to love these characters so much, and you spoke of them so compassionately and with such understanding. Thank you very much! I am looking forward to hearing how people feel after reading the book…and I’m definitely adding your very thoughtful review to my website.

  34. July 31, 2010 12:07 am

    This sounds so good Kathy. Thanks for reviewing it.

  35. July 31, 2010 7:20 am

    Hummm. This might be okay for me. I can’t imagine the repercussions of trying to bury or hide something one did in her youth.

  36. July 31, 2010 9:08 am

    Ohhh, I don’t really like “women’s fiction” but you have me so intrigued! I want to know what she did!!!

  37. July 31, 2010 10:46 am

    Thanks for this review. Sounds very good to me. I love that cover too!

  38. July 31, 2010 8:37 pm

    I’m really looking forward to this one, so I’m glad to know you liked it!

  39. July 31, 2010 9:15 pm

    Ooh I want to know what they did! LOL… I guess I’ll have to pick up the book. =)

  40. August 1, 2010 1:31 am

    Sounds like a great book club read!

  41. August 1, 2010 9:22 am

    this sounds great, I wonder what happened. now im curious!

  42. August 1, 2010 1:23 pm

    Not mentioning the past ever again does not really deal with the situation, rather it masks it for a quick band aid solution. Like all things it leaves both sides playing with a time bomb until it errupts. Your review has me jotting this book down for Must Have Next list. Another great review Kathy, well done 🙂

  43. August 1, 2010 7:23 pm

    This one sounds really good.

  44. August 1, 2010 11:19 pm

    Wow. This sounds perfect. I really want to read this book!

  45. August 2, 2010 9:01 pm

    Definitely sounds like something that I don’t want to miss!

  46. August 3, 2010 1:29 pm

    You made me want to read this one. I’m a big believer that you can never really pretend that something never happened … it will always surface again no matter how hard you try. It is always better to deal with it upfront.

  47. August 4, 2010 8:47 am

    Wow, this sounds like a powerful novel. Thanks for the great review…I wanna know what the secret is!

  48. August 4, 2010 8:07 pm

    I wonder what had happened the couple. I am interested to read this. I reflected on my own life as I read your review. Many things happened. Decisions made, which were bad ones. Regrettable actions. Mistakes. And I tried my best to move on. It’d be great if I can find this book and read it.

  49. August 18, 2010 1:37 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this one until your review, and you’ve convinced me to add it to my to-read list!

  50. Julie permalink
    September 11, 2010 3:43 pm

    Really odd how this book has the same cover as another book that’s still available and just came out a few years ago: http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Again-Later-Jill-Davis/dp/0060875976/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284234072&sr=1-2

    BTW, this is my first time reading your blog and it looks great. I’ll have to explore a bit.

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