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The Opposite of Maybe: A Novel Paperback – April 8, 2014

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0770437680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0770437688
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Essay by Maddie Dawson

As a writer, I’m always thrilled when a character shows up in my head, demanding that I write a story about her. (Mostly it’s women who initially come knocking at my brain’s door, but I’ve noticed that they quickly bring along some men, usually the men who are giving them the troubles they need me to write down.)

It was no different when Rosie Kelley showed up one night. She woke me up to tell me that she was forty-four years old, she was pretty sure she was pregnant for the first time, and the grandmother who raised her might be dying, and she was breaking up with the guy who got her pregnant because he wanted to move across country—and well, she’d just realized she wasn’t ready to move away with a man who was perhaps a little bit selfish. (Maybe a lot selfish!) News like this makes me bolt upright in the bed and go off looking for my laptop. The sun was just coming up as I typed up the complicated facts of Rosie’s life: an orphan, unmarried, never really lived the life she wanted, 15-year relationship with a nerdy man who collects teacups…and on and on.

Believe me, I wouldn’t have gotten up if she’d just been one of those whiny types. I hate whiners! Over the next few days, I discovered she was funny and irreverent and completely unprepared for the life that had just reached up and chosen her. She had depth and empathy and also she was scared out of her mind, which always fascinates me about people.

I quickly decided I knew how things were going to turn out in this book. I went to work every day, typing up the story, weaving in subplots that showed up, (thank you, subplots), and enjoying the details of Rosie’s agonies and ecstasies. I had sex scenes and food scenes and people dancing in the living room and cheating at Scrabble and fighting and making up…and then one day I got close to the end of the book and the bottom fell out.

Rosie refused to do what I thought she and I had agreed that she would do. It wouldn’t work, she said. It would, I told her.

And then she said: No way.

My friends argued with me, pointing out that it was MY book, that Rosie wasn’t—you know, really real—and urging me to write the book the way I thought it should be. So I tried that, and it didn’t work. Fell flat.

I guess the point is that you breathe life into these characters who show up and agree to talk to you, and then—just like with the real humans you raised—there comes a time when you have to listen to them. We read to be intrigued, delighted, and to find out what happens next—and sometimes, it turns out, writers are just as surprised as readers by what our characters decide to do.

From Booklist

Rosie and Jonathan, lovers and partners for more than 15 years, get engaged, pack up to move to California for Jonathan’s new job, then break up, all within the first 100 pages of Dawson’s novel. It’s a relief because self-centered Jonathan is such an unlikable character, and the change clears the way for Rosie, who finds herself pregnant at 44 with Jonathan’s child. Soapie, Rosie’s cantankerous grandmother, is beginning to decline, and she’s hired Tony, a young man who mixes her Bloody Marys and appears at first to be a gigolo. Rosie moves back with Soapie to check up on her and her new “hired help,” finding that Soapie also has the daily attention of George, a married friend whose wife has dementia, and that Tony is a actually a warm family guy. Together, the four misfits play games, sing, and dance, creating a “sweetness that comes when something can’t be permanent: it comes attached to an ache.” Dawson keeps readers turning the pages to find out who Rosie will choose in the end. --Laurie Borman

More About the Author

I grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers--the kind of storytellers who would sit on the dock by the lake in the evening and claim that everything they say is THE absolute truth, like, stack-of-Bibles true. The more outlandish the story, the more it likely it was to be true. Or so they said.

You want examples? There was the story of my great great aunt who shot her husband dead, thinking he was a burglar; the alligator that almost ate Uncle Jake while he was waterskiing; the gay cousin who took his aunt to the prom, disguised in a bouffant French wig. (The aunt, not the cousin.) And then there was my mama, a blond-haired siren who, when I was seven, drove a married man so insane that he actually stole an Air Force plane one day and buzzed our house. (I think there might have been a court-martial ending to that story.)

And in between all these stories of crazy, over-the-top events, there was the hum of just daily, routine crazy: shotgun weddings, drunken funerals, stories of people's affairs and love lives, their job losses, the things that made them laugh, the way they'd drink Jack Daniels and get drunk and foretell the future. There were ghosts and miracles and dead people coming back to life. You know, everyday stuff.

How could I turn into anything else but a writer? My various careers as a substitute English teacher, department store clerk, medical records typist, waitress, cat-sitter, wedding invitation company receptionist, nanny, daycare worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco-maker were only bearable if I could think up stories as I worked. In fact, the best job I ever had was a part-time gig typing up case notes for a psychiatrist. Everything the man dictated bloomed as a possible novel in my head.

Still, I was born with an appreciation for food and shelter, and it didn't take me long to realize that coupling a minor in journalism to my English degree might be a wise move, even though I had never for one moment felt that passion for news that my newspaper colleagues claimed beat in their breasts. I am famous for raising my hand in Journalism 101 and saying, incredulously, to the professor, "You don't mean to tell me that every single detail in the story has to be true? Every one? Really?"

Learning to write only truth was a tough discipline, and as soon as I could, I left the world of house fires and political scandals and planning and zoning commission meetings and escaped into a world of column-writing, and then, magazine writing. (Way, way better to be assigned to think of 99 ways of getting him to declare his love, than to have to write about the bond proposal for the sewer lines.) But all along the way, in between deadlines and raising three children and driving them to their sports games and tucking them in at night and doing the laundry and telling them stories, I was really writing a novel about marriage and relationships and the way regret has of just showing up alongside your life, just when you think things are as rosy as they could be.

Today I live in Connecticut, and spend part of every day on my screened-in back porch with my trusty laptop, writing and writing and writing, looking out at the willow tree and the rosebush and the rhododendron that has a nice nest of cardinals, who I imagine to be yelling at me to get back to work whenever I wait too long to write the next sentence.

The lakehouse is gone now, and many of my more outrageous story-telling relatives are telling stories to the angels now. But even though I'm far from home, and far from the stories that nourished me in the beginning, I can still hear their voices on the breeze, still recall the buzz of the Air Force jet that had come to take my mother away until my father stepped in and said: "No. No. She's mine."

Wait. Is that what he said? Or was he not home that day? You know, now that I think of it, it might have been just my mother and me at home just then, running outside in our excitement, my mother's cheeks burning red, her eyes frightened and dancing, as the wings dipped and did a little salute to her and to love and to unrequited passion...and probably to hope that she would leave my father and run away. I do remember being scared and exhilarated both, seeing that my mother had this power and this whole other life besides the one I spent with her.

And I remember the wide Florida sky and the heavy, humid air and the loudness drowning out everything but the thought that we never ever know what's going to happen. And knowing, even at seven, that that was probably a good thing.

Keeps it interesting, you know.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ward on April 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I loved this book so much! It has such likable, really lovable, characters.

Rosie has been in a relationship with Jonathan for many years. They are now in their 40s. Their core group of friends are all married with children and they are fine with that until the night they are going to leave to move across the country so Jonathan can be a part of the opening of a teacup museum, yes, a teacup museum. Rosie's grandmother Soapie is in her 80s and she's been having mini-strokes and signs of dementia. Rosie knows she can't leave her and she's not sure moving to California is what she wants. She has Jonathan drop her off at her grandmother's house and he goes anyway. Soapie is thrilled because she thinks Rosie has lost the essence of who she is.

Well, surprise, surprise, surprise, Rosie finds out she's pregnant! She doesn't want to keep the baby at first but that changes and her life takes on a whole different light.

We have the most wonderful cast of characters in her life. Soapie is a kick. She's not the most warm and fuzzy grandmother but you know she does really love Rosie. She's protected her for years. Rosie and Soapie were a bit hard for me to read at times because I am taking care of my 89-year-old mother with dementia and it really it home for me. Had me in tears. Soapie has had a secret relationship with George, who's wife is in a home with Alzheimer's. He's just so adorable. And then we have Tony, the man who Soapie has living with her. He's in his 30s and there could not be a more wonderful man. His wife left him for another woman and has kind of kept him on the outside of a life with their son Milo. But he loves Milo so much and you will fall in love with him.

This book had me from hello. You really will fall in love with the characters.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Holly C. on April 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This is one of the most unique novels I've read in years. Within the first few pages, I was so quickly engaged in the lives of these characters that I laughed aloud while reading and woke my husband, then woke him again when I started sniffing and weeping later in the book. This deceptively simple novel is written with heart and generosity for even the most flawed characters (like the boyfriend who obsesses about starting a teacup museum, of all things). You'll be left wanting to dance, and maybe even feeling like you want to open your arms to forgive even the most churlish, petty people you've been mad at for years. THE OPPOSITE OF MAYBE is marketed as women's fiction, but it's the best kind of universal literature, with wit, depth, and a refreshingly humorous perspective on what it means to be human and pursue passion with joy and determination.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By the GreatReads! TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson is a unique novel that has the power to lure you just by the charm of its cover and title. It was not necessary for me to check out what this book was all about. I like the title, and the cover was just simply too appealing to ignore it. But once I discover what the story is all about, and Sophie's journey of self-discovery and coming of age, I knew I was going to enjoy it. The Opposite of Maybe is a story of the hard choices one has to make at some point or the other in this journey of life.

But it is no ordinary story as you find Rosie, who is forty-four years old, in a long-running relationship with Jonathan. When Jonathan is offered a dream job in San Diego, Rosie moves in with her grandmother Soapie again. But she has to deal with Tony as well whom her grandmother hires to be her care-giver. Rosie also later realizes that she is pregnant.

The story tackles several relationships – between Rosie and Jonathan, Rosie and Soapie, and Rosie and Tony. These relationships are all at different levels and they all have to be dealt differently. Her relationship with her grandmother Soapie is distinctly different from the other two as Soapie is the one who raised her since the death of her mother Serena, when she was just three years old. As for her relationships with Jonathan and Tony, it could be described as situational but as you read through the story, you will discover that it is much more than that.

There can only be two reactions to this novel – one of disdain for the characters and one of great admiration. And that depends on how deep you go into the story, or how far you can relate with the characters.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rita Sydney VINE VOICE on January 31, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What exactly is the opposite of maybe? Yes? No? This title fits the story because Rosie, the character at it's center, faces decisions she has difficulty making. Sometimes alternatives seem equally plausible and she gets stuck at maybe for awhile.

Rosie and Jonathan, in their mid-forties, have been together 15 years and unlike their paired-off friends have happily done without a house, a mortgage, a marriage license, children. Then all Jonathan's eccentricities come into sharp focus for Rosie when he wants to move to San Diego to be part of a museum that would showcase his collection of tea cups. He's unsympathetic to her wanting to be near Soapie, the 88 year old grandmother, in failing health, who raised her.

Rosie half heartedly agrees to the suggestion that they get married and plans a small wedding. When Jonathan choses to fly off to Texas in pursuit of a prized tea cup collection rather than marry on the scheduled date, it's the last straw for Rosie. She stays in Connecticut and he drives off to California.

Rosie moves into Soapie's home; also there are another octagenarian, George (a long-ago beau), and Tony, gardner by trade and now caregiver to the old woman. Tony is 33 and has a complicated relationship with his ex-wife and son whom he misses very much.

When Rosie finds she is pregnant (the result of one careless moment with Jonathan) she delays telling Jonathan about the baby, intuitively knowing his reaction. He doesn't disappoint:

"...Rosie, I don't think you really want this. I know you. Sweetie, you're not and I'm not -- parent material...We're the uncommitted do-nothingers of life...Look at all our friends...we didn't want that life. On purpose we didn't want it. You can't...
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