Maddy and Dalton meet while working the rivers of Wyoming and fall instantly in love. Young and hardy, the biggest thing they have to fear is turning into their parents. When life in Wyoming is no longer an option, they’re resilient, carving out new adventures running a river tour company in Oregon. Then life really blindsides them. Just as they’re expecting their first child, Maddy is diagnosed with MS. If Not For This is her narration of their lives together, through waters smooth and tumultuous.
Louis de Bernières once wrote, “Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away”. Maddy and Dalton never stop being in love with each other. Yet neither do they have the luxury of being idealists. The title reflects a broken dream, who they could have been had things been different. You feel every bit of it, the fury and the futility.
That being said, the author makes no attempts to paint them as perfect. Yes, Maddy is sharp and funny and fierce. She’s also frustratingly stubborn. She pushes people away and uses gallows humor as a defense mechanism. Dalton is, for the most part, the ideal devoted husband. Yet he flits between trite Hallmark-esque remarks one minute and succumbing to devastating anger the next. Even given the circumstances, they’re both incredibly smug at times about what a great couple they are. These flaws aren’t endearing and that’s what makes them feel like real people. I even had to go back in this review and type their full names instead of calling them Mad and Dalt like they call each other.
Personally, I think this blows The Notebook out of the water (pardon the pun). The only thing that stops me from calling this a definite GBC choice is the pacing. It’s a slow-burn story that took some time getting into. Still, it’s well worthy of consideration. A memorable and moving read.