Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Stuff That Never Happened: A Novel by Maddie Dawson

may have familiar plot points, but it's five times better than most of its peers due to the strength of the characterization and the author's deployment of delicious, perfect plot surprises.

Annabelle, an almost-fifty book illustrator with a straitlaced husband, goes to New York help her pregnant daughter and face down both her her past and her present. Over and over again in this book (as in life), there are moments of upset and reversal and shock that keep your eyes on the page until you find out what happens next. It's not a perfect book, but it's a perfect read, offering up the pleasures of immersion in a life that seems very, very here-and-now, very real.

There are so many kinds of good books. Personally, I tend to love a complex, literary, grim read; this novel is not at all one of those. It's easy and charming and affectionate. It manages to take a hard look at marriage and its expectations and to draw some surprising conclusions.
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