Peter Fromm | If Not For This

Books & Writers

Maddy and Dalt call themselves “The Luckies” because their love is so large. “There’s no way anything this huge could ever happen again, not in this universe. We’ve used it up. All the luck.”

Well, except the bad luck that inflicts Maddy with multiple sclerosis – a mean disease that gradually steals everything from this strong, vital young river runner, except love.

Author Pete Fromm’s new novel generously imagines the lives of Dalt and Maddy, drawn together by a passion for each other, and running wild rivers. They get married on the banks of the Snake in Wyoming, and promptly set off downstream. As the raft begins to drift, Maddy reflects on “how much like marriage this is. Wondering who is steering, how we’re ever going to get around all those wicked-ass snags, what’s going to keep us from beaching on those long, gray, dry gravel bars.”

MS, which shows up first as a long spate of fatigue, diagnosed as mono, is about as “wicked-ass” as it gets. Maddy still conceives and bears two healthy children, with each pregnancy offering a brief respite from symptoms.

But the toll on her life and health is inexorable. They relinquish their dream business – Half Moon Whitewater – and move to a bungalow in town, where Dalt becomes a contractor so they can pay the rising medical bills.

Fromm, who has always had a knack for plumbing the interior lives of eccentric characters, places readers in the head and heart of a funny, brave woman as she navigates this terrifying run down a brutal river. It’s a story imbued with such honesty, courage and kindness – the qualities that turn ordinary people into heroes.

“A terrific novel, poignant as hell, but feisty, funny and romantic too,” writes novelist Jess Walter.

Fromm has written 10 books, including the novel As Cool As I Am, which was made into a movie, and a memoir, Indian Creek Chronicles. His latest book was published by Red Hen Press and sells for $15.95.

– Kristi Niemeyer