The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Nina Popkin's mother has recently passed away and she's also freshly divorced. Adopted as a child, her mother's death rekindles Nina's desire to search for her birth mother. She's always felt as she's never belonged anywhere, searching strangers' faces and eyes for her potential birth mother. Amazingly, Nina manages to find her biological sister, Lindy, whom she actually knew as a kid from her neighborhood. But Lindy, who is obsessed with creating a perfect house and life, isn't too thrilled about her wayward sister bursting into her life. Lindy has three kids, a busy salon to run, and a lot of (hidden) anxiety to deal with. But Nina is force to be reckoned with and she's determined to bring Lindy on her journey to find their mother. But will this journey finally bring Nina the sense of peace and belonging she's always desired?
Dawson's novel is told from the varying points of view of its main women: Nina, Lindy, and their biological mother. It's a humorous--and sometimes heartbreaking--look at family and the different forms it can take. Dawson has created a cast of characters who seem incredibly real. She captures the little details just right, from family life with kids, to Nina's romantic woes. Nina is a trip: you can't help but love her and her relentless optimism. Even when the novel drags a bit in the middle, when you feel like Nina and the plot need a bit of a push, it recovers through its humor and Nina's personality. Perhaps the only part I found slightly weird was that Nina and Lindy's childhood neighborhood was so full of adopted children that they grew up knowing each other (though not knowing they were sisters), but perhaps that was truly par for the course for the era... who knows.
In the end, I really enjoyed this novel. It combines several other supporting characters, including the children of Nina's boyfriend, into a great read. At times it's truly laugh out loud funny, even if it gets a bit preposterous. But it's also heartfelt and touching and a lovely look at the bonds of family.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 10/25/2016.
View all my reviews