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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Road Not Taken

The Stuff That Never Happened
Maddie Dawson

Shaye Areheart Books, 2010

Annabelle McKay knows she has a wonderful life. She’s been married to the same reliable man for almost thirty years and has two remarkable adult children. She’s thankful for a stable life with a rewarding career as a book illustrator. She’s been happy, mostly, until recently. Lately, Annabelle has been feeling neglected and unappreciated because Grant, her husband, is trying to write a book and he has no time or energy left for her. In fact, he has scheduled lovemaking into his calendar for every Wednesday morning, which Annabelle resents. 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. So, when her pregnant daughter needs her help, Annabelle goes to stay with her in the city, hopeful she will “accidentally” bump into this other man and perhaps pursue the other road not chosen, even if it means risking her marriage and her family’s well-being.

This thoughtful novel probes deep into the dynamics of a seemingly happy marriage to find the cracks that can occur when two people begin to grow apart. Grant is so preoccupied with his career and his novel that he can’t see that his wife needs his attention. Annabelle, on the other hand, does not communicate any of her needs to Grant, nor can she see that his inattention is a temporary situation. I could identify with both marriage partners; the author does a good job exploring the motivations and feelings of each so that the reader can sympathize and understand what is happening. I had less sympathy for Annabelle, however. She did some very hurtful things that were very self-centered but I could see that she had to explore some things in order to set her mind at ease about her decisions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book: the characters were quirky and interesting and funny; the plot moved right along and even had a couple twists I wasn’t expecting; and the ending was realistic and satisfying. I highly recommend this for readers who like authors such as Kristin Hannah, Nancy Pickard, and Elizabeth Berg.

This is the author’s first novel.


Other books you may enjoy:

The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin (2004)
The great financier Harry Wainwright, nearing the end of his life, arrives at his fishing camp in Maine to fish and arrange an astonishing bequest that will forever change the lives of those around him.

The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue by Barbara Samuel (2004)
Struggling to pick up the pieces after her marriage falls apart, Trudy Marino finds support from a quirky group of friends -- the goddesses of Kitchen Avenue. As Trudy weighs what she and her husband still share against some powerful new possibilities, she'll surprise everyone -- including herself -- as she tries to reconcile the best of both worlds.

Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve (1999)
This novel transports us to the turn of the twentieth century, to the world of a prominent Boston family summering on the New Hampshire coast, and to the social orbit of a spirited young woman who falls into a passionate, illicit affair with an older man, with cataclysmic results.

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