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The Opposite of Maybe: A Novel Paperback – April 8, 2014
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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.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
I truly enjoyed this story and these people - especially the main characters. I don't often give four stars and only give five for masterpieces. This one came close!
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. You will want them each to get what they truly want, even if it is a teacup museum. I have Maddie Dawson's other book, The Stuff That Never Happened on my TBR pile. I am going to have to open that one soon!
I don't like pregnancy porn literature and I think that is exactly what this is. It also demeans people who really have chosen not to have children. I'm sorry I read it, I'd love that time back. If I could say something positive I would. You have been warned.