The Survivor’s Guide To Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson


Book Blurb from

Release Date: October 25, 2016

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.

My Review:

The book begins one evening in 1979. Tilton O’Malley is heading off to college leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend, Phoebe Mullen. Along with another friend A.J. Barnes, they decide to have a night on the town. Tragedy strikes this group, and their lives are changed forever.   

It is now 35 years later and we meet Nina Popkin.  After the death of her adopted mother, and a failed marriage, she becomes interested in finding her birth mother. She has known that she was adopted her whole life, and as a child dreamed of who her biological mother might be –  possibly Princess Diana, or maybe the gym teacher?  

During the pursuit of looking for her mother, Nina finds that she has a sister Lindy who grew up in the same town.  Unlike Nina, she has had no interest in finding her adoptive mother or pursuing a sisterly relationship. She has a family, an established business, young children, and a chaotic busy life. However, Nina is determined to forge a relationship with her newly found sister, even though she is continually rejected by her. The book shows Nina’s journey as she tries to answer all the questions that have eluded her for her entire life.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and some of her descriptions throughout the book made me laugh.  For example, this description of Nina’s friend’s fiancee, “He’s an electrician and has a union job and nice teeth, and loves church, motherhood, apple pie, peanut butter crackers, and puppies.”  

I look forward to future works from Maddie Dawson.