When Annabelle and Grant got married, they really didn’t know each other all that well. They moved across the country and lived with another young couple and their two children. Something happens in those early years that will haunt their marriage for the rest of their lives. Rather than talk about it, Grant makes Annabelle agree to never mention it again, and in effect, pretend that it never happened. On the surface, that seems to work – they move to New Hampshire, raise two children and seem to have a happy life. But, once the children are grown and out of the house, Annabelle finds that she can’t let go of the past.The Stuff that Never Happened by Maddie Dawson is a quiet, introspective novel told from Annabelle’s point of view. The story alternates between the past, when the event happened, and the present day, when the repercussions of pretending it never occurred take place. It’s a powerful book about life and love and living with decisions you’ve made in the past.Even though I’ve never done what Annabelle did, I found myself relating to her. She was trying to live with a mistake she made in her past, but she was never really able to move past it. She was able to keep it out of her mind while she was busy raising children, but once they were out of the house, she found herself almost obsessing over it. She thinks “maybe this is common. Perhaps the whole human race goes around with an ache like this.”Dawson does such a good job writing the characters, I could sympathize with Grant and understand his side of things, too. He adored Annabelle and was willing to forgive her, as long as they never spoke of the event that happened again – it was just too painful for him to face. He found himself involved in a project after the children left home, so he didn’t realize the despair Annabelle was going through.Both characters frustrated me at times, too. I think that’s part of what made the book so fascinating and compelling for me – I didn’t think either one was totally without fault. I was hoping they’d work things out, though, and I found myself rooting for them and wishing they’d make the right decisions along the way.I thoroughly enjoyed The Stuff That Never Happened and found it to be a fascinating study of the relationships (between spouses as well as children) in a marriage that has suffered in the past. Fans of women’s literature won’t want to miss this book!