The Stuff That Never Happened

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Published by: Broadway Books
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Pages: 336
ISBN13: 978-0307393685



Annabelle and Grant McKay have been married for 28 years and seem like the happiest couple anybody would ever want to meet. But here’s the thing about them: they met when they were very young and got married quickly because Grant had accepted a position across the country. To save on expenses, they moved in with another young couple and their children.

And during that time, something devastating happened which changed the course of their marriage forever.

In time, they recovered and moved on. But Grant’s condition for forgiving Annabelle was that they would never speak again of what had happened. They would move away and live in his family homestead in New Hampshire, where they would raise a family and learn to trust and love each other again.

It worked. They had two children, Annabelle became an artist and Grant a respected professor, and their house was the place in town where all the kids liked to hang out. They were in love, busy, successful, and happy.

But now, once the kids have left home, Annabelle realizes that she hasn’t really gotten over what happened to them back at the beginning of their marriage. Grant has thrown himself into his work, barely masking the anger he feels toward her–and with the nest suddenly empty and her husband grown cold, she starts to wonder if perhaps they made the right decision after all. And when her daughter needs her to come help her deal with a difficult pregnancy, and her old lover shows up unexpectedly, Annabelle is thrown into a situation that forces her to rethink everything she thought she knew about love and marriage and family happiness.


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The Stuff That Never Happened was on the USA Today bestseller list, as well as a Target Emerging Writers pick.

“…a deceptively bouncing, ultimately wrenching novel [that] will grab you at page one…” – People Magazine
“…enjoyable prose and keen characterizations…” – Publishers Weekly
“…surprising, illuminating and always believable…” – Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales
“…a paean to family happiness as much as romance.” – Stewart O’Nan, author of Songs for the Missing

“Maddie Dawson's The Stuff That Never Happened took me deep into the heart of Annabelle McKay, a middle-aged wife, mother, and artist, whose marriage survived her long-ago betrayal--and may once again be in jeopardy. How does love change through children, careers, tragedies? Would we even want a relationship to remain the same? Annabelle was so multi-layered and real that I couldn't help but adore her, despite her faults. Read this book! You'll be sad to turn the last page.”
 – Lorrie Thomson, author of A Measure of Happiness



I started crying at Crisenti’s yesterday, over by the frozen foods. This was not cinematic, attractive weeping either; it was full-frontal, nose-running, eyes-streaming near-blubbering. I had to pull my cart over to the side of the meat case while I searched through the lint in my coat pocket for a tissue.

I could not begin to tell you why this happened now, except to say that it’s February in New Hampshire, which if you ask me might be reason enough to break down. It’s been six months since Nicky went off to college and Sophie got married, and somehow on an ordinary Monday afternoon at the supermarket, it all caught up with me. I’d made it through Christmas all right, and the first anniversary of my mother’s death, and then through the season’s first eighteen snowstorms–and suddenly I was crying about all of it: how life is never going to be the same as it was when the children were home, and how Grant has never forgiven me for stuff that happened twenty-six years ago, and how I have somehow gotten to be almost fifty years old and all I have to show for it is a bunch of picture books.

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