The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

official blurb
Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semi-adrift, 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.

my blurb!
A somewhat sad story about searching for yourself and accepting what you find.

2.75 out of 5
what i liked
I liked Indigo. She’s not really a main character but isn’t necessarily in the background either. She is wild and trying to find herself and boundaries and discover her place in highschool.
A.J. Barnes was a hit for me too. Although  he was for sure a background character, I really liked his dialogue and insight into Phoebe’s life.
I went back and forth over whether or not to call this book realistic- because it was kind of depressing to me at times. But it was also probably pretty realistic. And I do like that about the book in some sense.  I mean, I like that it makes the characters more real and identifiable.
Phoebe was our birth mom in the story.  She lived a really hard life and she was still living. She hadn’t exactly given up on life, but she wasn’t searching for the rainbows either.  I liked her, I felt like she could’ve been a real person and when it came down to her ultimate explanation of how and why the sisters ended up getting adopted- I understood her.
Sidenote: You know how I feel about plot points that seem like they are supposed to surprise you but don’t?  I am still not sure if I was supposed to be surprised while reading the explanation about the fate of a certain character… but I was not surprised. Although there was a little “twist” in the breakdown of the adoption story that I wasn’t expecting, so any points lost in the “fate of character” breakdown were given back with the “twist.”

what i didn't like
The books tone was overall… kind of sad.  And it’s not that I don’t like a sad book, because one of my all time favorites is The Fault in Our Stars – and let me tell you, that book is a tearjerker.  But this one was almost…unhopeful.  (Most people would have used the term hopeless here, but it wasn’t hopeless it just wasn’t dripping with hope either).
Really, a lot of times I don’t enjoy reading adult fiction because the main characters lives are such a mess.  They’re usually unhappy and not sure what to do about it. And it makes me sad to see they’ve made it so long into their lives without finding happiness.  And it makes me really sad to experience their humdrum lives for 364 pages.  (I know, maybe I’m being to hard on them, but I’m 30. It’s not fun to read about characters in their mid 30s having midlife crises).
Nina- our ultimate main character, was raised with two amazing loving parents who adopted her.  But she never could get past her adoption.  That made me a little sad – even if it was realistic.  (Yes, I do watch This is Us. And yes, Randall is my favorite character and he does experience the same thing.  I don’t know how to explain why I didn’t like this as much, other than to just say that perhaps I just didn’t like Nina as much).
There was a “love story” with Nina and another character.  The reason I put that in quotes is that, I never really thought she did love this character. So when she does end up with him in the end and she seems pretty happy… I almost didn’t buy it.  So that automatically deducts a star from the rating because I should root for every love story I read about.
I’ve barely mentioned our other main character- Phoebe.  I didn’t love her or loathe her in her perspective chapters- so if she didn’t add a lot, should there really have been chapters in her perspective?

This was my second Maddie Dawson book (my first one was Matchmaking for Beginners), and I still might try another of her books, because I did enjoy her writing, but did not really enjoy this book as a whole.  So if you were going to read one- go ahead and reach of MFB instead.

while reading you should
Eat: blueberry pie
Make: A list of things you want to do with your year
Watch: obscure music videos on YouTube

if you would like to buy
Click here: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness

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