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second chances by maddie dawson

The Opposite of MaybeI loved Maddie Dawson’s first novel, The Stuff That Never Happened, about a woman who’s been theoretically happily married for almost 30 years but is still kind of in love with someone she had an affair with decades ago. It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking read, and I was sad to finish it because it was Maddie’s only book.

Until now.

Her new book, The Opposite of Maybe, is another great story about a middle-aged woman re-thinking her life. I finished it in one cross-country flight, and am now sad again because I’ll have to wait for Maddie to publish her next book.

Meanwhile, she’s generously agreed to share her own personal story of second chances, and I bet it will resonate with so many of you. The idea of finding new possibilities at any age is why I’m passionate about Life Reimagined, and why Maddie’s story is so important to read.

Maddie is also giving away copies of The Opposite of Maybe to two lucky Midlife at the Oasis subscribers. To enter, simply leave a comment below. The contest ends on June 14 at midnight Pacific time. Winner will be notified by return email. Prizes can only be sent to U.S. mailing addresses.

Here’s Maddie’s story:

Maddie Dawson

I hate to tell you how old I was when I got married the first time.

Okay, I was 18.

I know what you’re thinking: where was my mother? Why didn’t she ground me? Well, to be fair, she did make her view known that this was Not a Good Idea, and that I was throwing my life away, he would dump me in six months, I would come crawling back home, etc., etc. Blah blah blah: that’s what it all sounded like to my teenage, living-with-my-boyfriend-already-and-madly-in-love ears.

The marriage lasted ten years, which is a long time for two children to play house. He wanted to be a scientist, and I wanted to write fiction, so naturally I worked full-time while he went to school. But that was okay, because I’d get my turn, and in the meantime, we had a lot of friends, we lived on the beach, went to concerts, and laughed a lot. What was not to like?

Then life happened. We had a baby, we moved across country to a place we’d never been before because it turned out he needed a Ph.D., and NOT just a B.A., and then his mother died and we were both depressed about that, and then we had another baby. I took a writing class and wrote three stories I loved and put away.

In the middle of diapers and bills and daycare and not-enough-money-or-time, he got smitten by a lab partner, who was younger and more fun than I was. We no longer talked about anything real or important. We didn’t talk about the fiction I was never going to have time to write, the stories that were clogging my head. Or the fact that he was having an affair.

And then, when the children were five and two, we got divorced. Obviously my mother had been right about me. I didn’t do things the right way, and now I was alone and scared, with two sweet children to raise by myself. But at night, after they were in bed and when everything else was done, I slowly discovered a tiny little writing voice fighting to be heard. I started writing a novel.

It couldn’t be published, of course. I knew that. I just loved writing it.

But I was getting stronger. I learned I could ski and knit and ice-skate and bake pies with flaky crusts, and I got a job as the editor of a small weekly newspaper, which I put out almost single-handedly. I started running. I fell in love a few times. I wrote and rewrote my novel. Just for fun, you know. No big deal.

And then, years later, shockingly, I finished it! And, OMG, an agent asked to see it. I was terrified watching it go out in the world to face rejection. One day the phone rang, and my agent said, “They’re buying the book! And they want another one next year! Can you do it?”

And just like that, the story that I was telling myself about my life shifted into Before and After.

I love those scary moments in life—when it feels like we’re standing on a precipice and the only choice is to stay stuck or taken an unlikely leap into nothingness.

In my newest novel, The Opposite of Maybe, Rosie faces her own “before and after” moment when she discovers that, at 44, she’s accidentally pregnant for the first time just as she’s breaking up with the man she’s loved for 15 years and is taking on the full-time care of her rascal of a grandmother.  Can she erase the story she’s been telling herself about how non-maternal she is, and how she doesn’t deserve anyone better? I wasn’t sure when I started writing her story.

Sometimes, after all, the only thing is to take a deep breath, jump, and hope the life that awaits us has a place for a second chance.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Opposite of Maybe.

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  1. You had me at the title. And the idea of starting over when you thought your life story was already written. Can’t wait to read this.

  2. Wow…what a great personal account – inspiring as I myself hope to begin a second chapter. Will definitely add The Stuff That Never Happened to my reading list and hope to win a copy of The Opposite of Maybe.

  3. Adding The Opposite of Maybe to my reading list! Stories of re-scripting a life fascinate me — either by choice or, as what seems like the case here, by circumstance. Great interview Lois.

  4. As someone who is starting yet another chapter in my life, I can totally relate to the story of Rosie in The Opposite of Maybe! The exciting thing about new chapters is that we don’t know how they will end until we get there!! Everyone needs a new chapter, every once in a while. I cannot wait for my new journey to begin!

  5. I *loved* The Stuff That Never Happened and now so look forward to The Opposite of Maybe. (Pick me, pick me!) It’s interesting to read how things worked out for others — writers, in particular — who were married at 18, the same as I was. (Actually, I was 17… turned 18 the week later; my dad has to sign the papers giving me permission before I was “legal.”) I’m so impressed by Maddie’s pluck, persistence and success! Cheers to Before and After!

  6. Alex Sanders says:

    I know the author and her writing well – but haven’t had the pleasure of reading her novels. This article truly piqued my interested. I can’t wait to crack the book open!

  7. Sounds like a book I’d like.

  8. Sounds like a lovely book. Can’t wait to read it!

  9. Sounds like I have a lot in common with the author, the need to rescript what is going on in my life. I think I’d like – no LOVE – this book. So whether I win or not it’s going on my book list. Awesome.

  10. Jason F says:

    We all rethink our decisions made when we were younger. Some think and dwell harder than others.

  11. “I love those scary moments in life—when it feels like we’re standing on a precipice and the only choice is to stay stuck or taken an unlikely leap into nothingness.” That says it…all about the stretch. Presently, there is a huge shift happening for us as well. Nothing in life is ever stable it is about our ability to go with the flow and embrace change as a teacher not something to fear. I now have more books to read that you have recommended between you and Martha Beck it is hard to keep up but I love your choices. Thank you for this especially as it looks and sounds as awesome as EAT pray Love and WILD born out of the angst of the journey that created a heartfelt story. Two great combinations…my kindle is getting full:)))) xxo

  12. Oh wow, I can not even imagine starting over at this point in my life. It sounds like a great read!

  13. You are never too old to begin a new chapter in life. Awesome. I will put on my reading list.

  14. I have never heard of Maddie Dawson before, but after reading her story, I definitely want to check out her books. I love that she was able to persevere through the adversity and become the writer that she wanted to be all along.

  15. Pick me. I need some summer reads

  16. Sounds like a good book – I think many of us think about “what If?” Pinned to read this summer

  17. Carol Rogero says:

    Definitely adding this to my reading list. I love a good reinvention story.

  18. Kathleen says:

    The timing could not be more perfect; I just left a career of 30 years to begin my second chapter!
    She sounds like a breath of familiar air and I haven’t even read her work yet. Thank you for sharing Lois, I have discovered some great to writers through reading your blog and have really enjoyed them! Adding Maddie Dawson to my list!!!

  19. Oh my! I am sorry she had such a bad experience – but we got married when we were super young and things are still going strong almost 9 years and 3 littles later. 🙂

  20. Thanks for sharing her story here. It’s always gratifying to read about someone who perseveres and believes in herself despite long years of struggle and doubt. I’ll be eager to read her books.

  21. Sounds great to me.

  22. Debra Harp says:

    Appears to be an interesting author. Can’t wait to read this book.

  23. Vicky Tarulis says:

    If medieval kings had food tasters, I think of you as my book sampler; I’m still alive and reading not only enjoyable books, but insightful one also. Keep the titles/authors coming….and thank you.

  24. fran Pillwersdorf says:

    Added to my too read list

  25. Jessica @EatSleepBe says:

    This sounds like a terrific summer read. I think I’ll have to download both of her books!

  26. I’ve read this book and loved it. It’s just as much about the protagonist finding the courage to stop listening to the way other people define her and start defining herself as it is about second chances. Everyone deserves to define herself.
    And speaking of start-overs, Maddie Dawson wrote several novels under a different name before she wrote The Stuff That Never Happened, so if you enjoy these two books, check out her titles as Sandi Kahn Shelton!

  27. Sandra Boen says:

    I will be adding this author to my “to read” list TODAY!

  28. I have to get this book! It’s right up my alley. Can’t wait to get reading! Thanks!

  29. Good for you to write what is/has happened to so many women and it is OK, just takes a different turn. But like so many things, we couldn’t have not done what was done at that original time. Looking forward to reading all the twists and turns on survival. Thank you for writing.

  30. OK her first book goes on my reading list and if i don’t win, this one too. They both sound intriguing!

  31. This sounds like a fabulous book and the sooner I read it, the better! I think most women can really relate to this story.

  32. I like the concept behind this book. It sounds like it is an excellent read.

  33. Will read both books by hook or by crook!!

  34. This sounds like an interesting book! I also enjoyed reading Maddie’s own story.

  35. These sound like they’d be right up my alley for sure. I may have to do that after I finish the one I’m reading now!

  36. It is great when a book ends and you wish there was more because the book was so good.

  37. This book sounds great! I will have it on my list this summer! I am also finding my life not at all what I expected after the death of my husband at 46 (he was 45). I hope i have a great survival story in the next 10 years! now it is still day to day…

  38. Debbie Terry says:

    I would enjoy your reading your experiences.

  39. Susan Bailey says:

    I love Maddie Dawson’s easy, conversational style of writing. I feel as though we have sat down with glasses of wine and she is confiding her deepest, darkest, most heart breaking life secrets to me. I could read her books all day and still want more! Her life events could have happened to me or one of my friends! Keep writing Maddie! We want more!

  40. Sounds like an interesting book. I’ll have to see if my library has it.

  41. It is so enjoyable to read about second chances and the twists and turns that life brings and how people accept them and move on in their life’s journey.I would be delighted to read about this woman’s journey and how she handles it. I look forward to reading this. We all know that the one thing definite about life is change.

  42. Sounds a lot like my story…almost scared to read it ..lol. I better hurry and read the first one so I am ready for my free copy of the second one.

  43. Sounds like a great read, one I would enjoy!

  44. That book cover would definitely catch my eye at the bookstore!

  45. I love her story. Wow. I got married very young, young and dumb. I can totally relate. I’m headed to check out her books now.

  46. Angela S says:

    The character in this book sounds like someone I could totally relate to.

  47. Oh my goodness! I am overwhelmed with all these wonderful comments. How I wish you ALL could win a copy of the book! Or better yet, that we could all sit down together and swap our stories perhaps over a cup of tea…or wine. It’s always astonishing to me how isolated we all feel, thinking we’re the only ones with our own brand of embarrassing life mistakes or crazy stories…and then once we share it with someone, it turns out the whole blasted planet is having the same experience! Thank you all for commenting. I want to be BFFs with all of you!

  48. I LOVED the book!!! And I loved reading Maddie’s story here. Everyone, head right on over to Amazon now and order your copy. The characters will grab your heart and you won’t be able to put the book (and them) down!

  49. Maria Oller says:

    I need to add the book to my reading list sounds like a good story to read while enjoying the pool and kids!

  50. I am definitely adding this to my list of books to read! What exactly is the opposite of “maybe”? … “Most definitely”? 😉 I believe anyone can change their stars. And I really look forward to learning more about the rascal-grandmother… how intriguing 🙂

  51. That long deep breath – what happens right after you exhale? Is that in the book? I’m intrigued to know if the answer to that question is in there. I’m always wondering what happens to other women right after they exhale.

  52. Barbie Roberts says:

    Embracing my 50, wondering whats next. Hope I win your book. Now get out of bed and work out Barbie!!

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