Published: October 25, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
You might enjoy this book if you like: Dysfunctional family stories, generational stories, adoption stories
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.
Normally, when I say a book is "messy," it is not a good thing. This book, however, is the exception. It is a gloriously messy book about glorious messy people and I wouldn't want it any other way.
I don't have personal experience with adoption, so I find stories about it intriguing. However, these stories are frequently too Hallmark-esque to take seriously. The emotions in Dawson's book, on the other hand, are raw and genuine. All the characters go through a range of feelings and the reader is brought along and shares in the experience. Everyone is flawed, and it is marvelous.
The story is told through the voices of Nina, her new found sister Lindy, and their birth mother Phoebe. Each narrator has a distinct voice and cadence, something that not many authors master when they do a multiple-narrator novel. This is especially effective because so much is revealed to the reader through the characters' actions and voices, not just by what they say.
This novel is not just about the relationship between Nina, Lindy, and Phoebe, but also the relationships these women have with each other. I do wish that Dawson had delved a bit more into Phoebe's life and I did feel that the part of Lindy's story line not involving the adoption (at least not directly) was somewhat dropped. Nina's relationships, on the other hand, were well-developed, fascinating, and--as I've said--messy. I probably would have been happy with a book just about Nina and her own story line (not that I am complaining about this book).
This the first book by Maddie Dawson that I've read, but I will definitely be seeking out more of her books. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Nina, Lindy, and Phoebe and would heartily recommend this book to others.
I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.
Many thanks to Lake Union Publishers, I have one copy of The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness to give away to one of my readers. This giveaway is open to readers in the US and will run until midnight (Pacific Time) on November 1st.