- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books (April 8, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0770437680
- ISBN-13: 978-0770437688
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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!
Writing of this story was very good, the decisions the main character makes are plausible and the characters are explored and well-constructed.
At the end of the day--and I read 3-4 novels per week--for me, the measure of a satisfying read is the intelligence and plausibility of the main character and his/her actions, as well as the tertiary characters. I would give this an A+ on those points. As a matter of fact, I actually picked up the phone to call my friend who, along with her mother, remind of the main character and her grandmother.
Not really chick-lit, not really beach read--you won't feel gooey or brain-dead when you reach the end.
But Jonathan and Rosie live their quirky, eccentric lives, entwined, but definitely not a circle that will be UN broken. Rosie has Soapie, her 88 year old grandmother, who raised her from a very early age, and Jonathan has a huge family that he can't stand to be around, BUT, he had his teacups - yes, his teacups that he collects. Before cups,it was Springsteen memorabilia, National Geographics, etc.
Then life interferes. Rosie, at 44 years of age, is pregnant, and wants this child, very much, she decides. Jonathan, who has left for California to start a teacup museum, is decidedly unhappy about Rosie's decision, and other "issues" that have complicated their lives, such as a sweet, sensitive Italian guy named Tony who loves Rosie and all things pregnancy.
The caregiver role that Rosie has always been for Soapie has also taken its toll, as has the reality of being a single mom at 44.
But, Rosie endures, gets up every day, and gives life, and living, another whirl. When she finally has her child, decisions are made, and as life has a way of doing, Rosie makes her choices, finally.
As a character, I found Rosie simultaneously sympathetic, and infuriating. A classic co-dependent who never thought she was smart enough, good enough, whatever enough, she does a great job of drifting through life via her louse of a lover, Jonathan, a classic jerk in every sense possible.
Soapie was the grandmother I wished I'D had, sassy and opinionated and "truth tellin." You just know, even though sometimes you want to strangle her, she'll always love you no matter what.
The mini-dramas surrounding Rosie were a little strained, but, really, in the end, all the characters were people we know, or someone we know KNOWS them.
I really enjoyed The Opposite of Maybe, and I could actually envision a sequel! Life DOES go on, you know. I would like to see Rosie a couple years down the line, the word "maybe" no longer in her vocabulary. She's no longer led around, she's the leading lady in her own life, and she deserves it.