Mad Dash

It started with a puppy…

The poor thing was cold and trembling, abandoned on their back door step. Dash, with her usual impulsive spirit, decided on the spot that they’d keep it. But her husband, Andrew, thinks it’s the craziest thing he’s ever heard. Admittedly, a fight over a puppy hardly seems like grounds for Dash’s decision to run out of the house, and out of their 20-year marriage, but the puppy was just the last of many straws…She’s tired of the faculty parties at Mason-Dixon College that Andrew insists they attend even though he won’t mingle with his colleagues, of the constant fretting about illnesses he doesn’t have, of the glass of warm milk he must have before bed. And can’t he see that with her mother gone and their daughter off at college maybe Dash needs something more?

Now, living on her own for the first time in years, Dash feels she can do whatever she wants . . . if only she could figure out what she wants to do. But every time she starts making plans for the future, she finds herself thinking about the past—remembering her mother, her daughter’s childhood, and the husband she isn’t entirely sure she wants to leave behind.

 read chapter one  |  get the readers/discussion guide

 ~ a note from the author ~

What provoked this Mad Dash?

It’s not that I have a short attention span, and it’s not that I’m easily bored—in fact, I’m never bored. It’s just that I can’t write the same sort of book indefinitely. I run out of new things to say, and I’m terrified of repeating myself—God knows I do that often enough in real life.

So, after four books about either women’s friendships (The Saving Graces) or mothers and daughters (Circle of Three, Flight Lessons, The Goodbye Summer), I knew I needed a change. Women, women everywhere! Help! I was drowning in estrogen!

Don’t get me wrong—relationships among women are endlessly varied and fascinating, and my friends mean the world to me. But let’s face it, this is a two, count ’em, two-gendered world, and I had been ignoring the second one for a long time. Time to go back to my roots.

Yes, my roots. Did you know I used to write historical romance novels? Twelve of them, and I had the best time—what pure fun those books were, all set in different places, different times. Ah, romance. Emotional intensity, larger-than-life characters, great sex, unambiguously happy endings—what’s not to love?

Well, the twelve-ness, primarily, plus that old horror of repeating myself. Frankly, I was dying to get away from Love, capital L, and move into the subtler, arguably calmer world of just women.

That was then, this is now.

Mad Dash, my first new book in three years, is both a departure and a return. It’s a love story between grownups. The main characters are Dash and Andrew, married for 20 years (can’t get much more grown up than that), and when we meet them, she’s leaving him. I don’t blame her: they found a puppy half-frozen on the doorstep, and Andrew won’t let her keep it. (Allergies.) And Dash needs that puppy—her mother died last summer, and her only child’s just gone off to college. For Dash, the puppy is the last straw.

But she’s no picnic at the beach, either, spouse-wise, and I enjoyed writing about her from Andrew’s point of view. And I realized I’d missed writing from the male point of view, something I used to do all the time in my romances. It’s fun and intriguing, keeps you on your narrative toes, and I think I do it well, possibly better than from the female pov. Wonder why? Maybe because my men usually get less screen time, and it’s easier to make a comparatively secondary character’s voice appealing. You can leave more out. You can be coy.

Ultimately, though, Mad Dash is Dash’s book. Her voice is more urgent, her story more compelling. She’s us—women in midlife confronting our failures and discontents, vague longings, leavetakings and abandonments, and let us not forget the dreaded perimenopause. It’s a serious book, but it’s also a comedy, and so the journey Dash takes is a circle. Lessons are learned, some of them hard, and things end the way they should.

All my books were hard to write, and this was no exception. I had quite a bit more fun, though, and I’m pretty sure it’s Andrew I have to thank. My hero. Not a romance hero, certainly—heavens! a romance anti-hero, more like—but all man, and not entirely unlike the one I’ve been living with for the last 28 years.

So—here’s something new from me. I look forward to writing more books like Mad Dash—putting more Love in, in other words—until, that is, I get tired of them. Until my fear of repeating myself paralyzes me again and I go off in a new direction. Wonder what it’ll be? Someday—don’t laugh, now—I’d like to write a book from the dog’s point of view. Wouldn’t that be fun? I’ve already started thinking up a plot.

A Book Sense Notable Book.

“Patrons will want to read this one for the pure charm of Gaffney's writing. Highly Recommended.” ~Library Journal, starred review

“Gaffney has a blunt and convincing insight into her characters, particularly the women … There isn't a phony bone in Dash's body, and we definitely want to hang around to see how the pieces finally end up on the matrimonial chessboard.” ~The Washington Post

“Good-humored story of a marriage in trouble … So much fun!” ~Boston Globe

“MAD DASH is really quite an extraordinary book about an ordinary marriage … The real beauty of this book is that it is so poignantly, so essentially human.”

“It's a lot of fun!” ~Publisher's Weekly

“A story about a separated couple could easily become shrewish. Gaffney (has) found the sweet spot in relationship humor: funny but not malicious. The result is a true-to-life portrait of a marriage at the crossroads.” ~The Free Lance-Star

“To make you smile … A book just long and sweet enough to get you through the night!” ~Good Housekeeping

“MAD DASH is exquisite, witty and wise, an intensely honest and compelling story of a couple in crisis where no one is to blame and everyone is. Gaffney’s portrait of a marriage is both great storytelling and exquisite writing, a wonderful book. MAD DASH is dazzling.” ~Jennifer Crusie

“I fell in love with MAD DASH. Head over heels. It's must reading for any woman who's been married longer than ten years. No one can beat Patricia Gaffney at writing moving and deeply revealing women's fiction that doesn't leave you racing to take an antidepressant when you're done.” ~Susan Elizabeth Phillips

“I loved MAD DASH. Patricia Gaffney's books are always heartfelt and wise--but most of all, laugh-out-loud funny--and this one is my favorite yet!” ~Janet Evanovich

“Mad Dash is a lovely, lovely novel. It is funny, true, wise and inspiring and I could not have enjoyed it more.” ~Elizabeth Buchan, author of REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN

“Patricia Gaffney is a powerful, original voice in women’s fiction. Funny, poignant, and true-to-life, MAD DASH is an absolute delight from start to finish. From the moment you begin the crazy journey that is Dash’s midlife crisis, you’ll see yourself, your friends, and your own family. Don’t miss this wonderful novel about one woman’s chaotic trip into the dark, secret terrain of her own heart.” ~Kristin Hannah

“With humor and compassion, Patricia Gaffney tells the story of a marriage, and the flawed and fascinating people inside it. Both touching and funny, MAD DASH is an intimate view—through the eyes of characters who resonate—of the human heart.” ~Nora Roberts

“…Brilliantly executed. The author's trademark humor is exemplary…This story resonates for anyone who has been in a long-term relationship, through all the ups and downs.” Rated 5 out of 5

“Oh my, sometimes you just love reading a novel for the sheer pleasure of meeting a character you will never, ever forget. I love Dash, I miss her even as I write this....This is a journey, reader, that will make you laugh, hope and cry. Author Patricia Gaffney is new to me but not a brand-new author, and I say "CHEERS TO YOU, you have given me, given us, a love of a read!” ~Diane, Diane's Books, Greenwich, CT