Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Review & Book Giveaway - The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness

Author: Maddie Dawson
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Type: Trade Paperback ARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
Publisher: Lake Union
First Published: October 25, 2016
First Line: "So he was really, really leaving, like his parents had told him he had to, and even though she already knew he wouldn't stand up to them, she had held out the tiniest bit of hope that something would happen and there would be a reprieve."

Book Description from GoodReadsThree women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.

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 Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: This book explores family and all it's various forms and variations.  From the relationship between mothers and daughters, parents and their kids to siblings.  Add in the complicated feelings surrounding adoption and this book has a lot going on.

The story is told via the different perspectives of three women - Nina, Phoebe and Lindy - who are each eccentric in their own rights but while they are connected by blood they have been separated by a decision made several decades before.  These women have different life experiences and want different things out of their relationships with each other. I think their varied reactions to the adoption gives the reader a well-rounded look at the issue of adoption but I feel that one point of view was missing - the perspective of Lindy's adoptive mom. Readers get a glimpse, but a deeper, heart-felt look into how she felt seeing her daughter connect with her birth mom would have been touching and added another layer to the adoption issue.

The book focuses mainly on Nina who has a desperate need for family after the loss of her adoptive mother.  She's almost obsessive in her need to connect with people who are 'hers'. I will admit that I didn't always like Nina with her erratic and desperately needy behaviour.  Honestly, sometimes I wanted to shake some sense into her - especially when she becomes a doormat to her new 'family'.  She is a woman who wants to belong at any cost and she loses herself a little in the process but thankfully she goes through a metamorphosis which I enjoyed witnessing.  She's a positive person who imagines the best in situations (even if those dreams are unrealistic) and I suppose the cynic in me clashed a bit with her character.  

Readers also get a very different look at adoption through the eyes of Lindy, Nina's newly found sister as well as Phoebe, the mother who gave them up for adoption over 30 years before.  I really clicked with Lindy's story line and wish that she was given more page time.  Reader's get a look into Lindy's hectic life and what she does to compensate for her lack of control but I would have liked to have known more about her - what was it like growing up in a large family, how did things progress with her relationship with her adoptive mother, did she still feel the obsessive need to count things? 

The book started off strong with these varied characters and the mystery surrounding the reason for the adoption and my emotions ran the gamut with this book.  I enjoyed getting into the nitty-gritty of these complicated family relationships.  I liked that Nina's romantic life wasn't as easy road and how my emotions relating to that relationship went all over the place - from 'awwww, that's sweet' to 'dump him, now!' to a realistic, yet satisfying ending.  But other times I felt the energy lagged and I didn't quite like or want to know more about Nina. And then the author picks up the pace in the last third of the book and ends with a wonderful epilogue that brings things full circle and wonderfully imperfect. This is why I'm sitting here struggling with my rating.

Dawson's writing is strong, occasionally witty and has a very heart-felt feel to it.  Her characters were complicated and even though I didn't like many of the choices one of them made (Nina, I'm looking at you) I still felt they were accurately drawn and believable.  

I enjoyed this book for what it is - a look at familial relationships in all their (occasionally) messy and wonderful stuff.  Relationships - familial, parental and romantic - are hard, hectic and hopefully wonderful things.  

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Now it's time for one of my followers to win a copy of The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness!!  Sorry, this giveaway is only open to Canadian and US residents.  Good luck!

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traveler said...

An author whose novels I enjoy greatly is Jennifer Donnelly. Memorable and capitvating.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Thanks for the author recommendation, Traveler! I do so love a book you can't put down.

adik miftakhur rohmah said...

I'm currently reading Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, it's a nice book to be honest.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Another 'new to me' author. Thanks Adik for the recommendation.

Courtney Whisenant said...

My favorite is Joshilyn Jackson! I've read all of her books and they keep getting better and better :)

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Hi Courtney - I think I started listening to one of Joshilyn Jackson's books (A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, I think) but then it had to go back to the library and I kind of forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder. :)

sarah gillespie said...

Honestly, Danielle Steel is and always will be my favorite author. I think because she was my grandmother and mothers favorite, it's in my blood to love a good novel.

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Family relationships ARE hard, and I so appreciate when a book reflects that reality. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Sarah - Can you believe that I've never read a book by Danielle Steele?? I know, I must live under a rock. Sidney Sheldon, yes. But not Steele.

Heather - I agree. Family is wonderful, messy, frustrating, funny .... This book didn't sugarcoat it and I liked that aspect. I can't wait to see who wins a copy tomorrow!!

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