The Survivor's Guide To Family Happinessby Maddie Dawson (Website, Facebook, Twitter)
Published by Lake Union Publishing on October 25, 2016
Genres: Adoption, Adult, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Dating & Sex, Humor, Marriage & Divorce, Romance, Siblings
Source: TLC Book Tours
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I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Three women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.
Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semiadrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers.
Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.
But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.
The Survivor’s Guide To Family Happiness is a book about finding your family, whether you’re related genetically or not, and the sacrifices that you have to make to be with them. Thirty-five-year old Nina Popkin has just lost her adoptive mother–the only mother she’s ever known–and she’s left with an emptyness after caring for her sick mother in her final months of life. Having always known that she’d been adopted, Nina has always wondered who her birth mother was, and more importantly, why did she give Nina up all those years ago? When Nina’s mother gives her a direction to go in towards finding answers about her birth family as one final gift before she died, Nina decides to pursue the search for her roots. But she doesn’t anticipate finding out that she has a younger biological sister named Lindy who grew up mere blocks away from her, or that this successful, seemingly together family woman might not want to have anything to do with Nina–or her dogged search for their birth mother.
While Nina deals with her sadness and lack of purpose over her mother’s death, she returns to work at the real estate office her best friend owns. She begins to show condos to an older divorcee named Carter, and the two slowly begin to grow on each other until they fully jump into a relationship rather quickly where Nina moves in with Carter and his two teenaged children to help take care of them once the mother splits town. Nina always jumps into relationships too quickly, her need to belong to someone so deep that she can’t help herself. And so Nina’s crazy life begins, where she juggles being thrust right into the middle of surrogate mothering two kids and a boyfriend while trying to win over her sister, all while searching for a birth mother named Phoebe who seems to want nothing to do with either of the girls that she gave up thirty-three years ago.
Told from the perspectives of Nina, Lindy, and Phoebe, but focusing mostly on Nina, I really loved the dynamic between the characters and their distinct voices. The characters were unique, spunky, and full of life and experience. Nina’s story was more fleshed out while Lindy’s lost a bit of focus in the end. Nina’s search for a family to belong to takes her from being there for her pregnant best friend with a loving husband to a ready-made family featuring her fifteen-years older boyfriend Carter who has interesting ideas for parenting, all the way to her forcing herself on her sister Lindy until Nina hopes Lindy will love and accept her.
I give The Survivor’s Guide To Family Happiness a 4.5 out of 5. This book flowed nicely, and I knew from the first few pages that I was going to enjoy this journey. The characters were interesting and realistic, and their voices were distinct. The family Nina makes in the end wasn’t entirely predictable, and the journey had enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I really enjoyed Carter’s daughter Indigo and Nina’s relationship with her. There’s a wonderful mix of humor, a bit of romance, teenage angst for Nina to deal with, and sticky situations that Nina and Lindy have to deal with in their lives. Maddie Dawson is certainly an author I’ll be looking for in the future.
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About Maddie Dawson
I’m the author of two novels, published by Crown–The Opposite of Maybe, which came out in April 2014, and The Stuff That Never Happened, which was published in August 2010. I love writing stories about second chances and complicated love lives.
I have also written three novels under the name Sandi Kahn Shelton.
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