The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness: A Novel by Maddie Dawson + Giveaway

Title:  The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness
Author: Maddie Dawson
Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
Release Date:  October 25, 2016
Genre: Contemporary / Literary Fiction

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.

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson is about belonging; belonging to someone and to one's self. There's a certain oddity and quirkiness about this book and its characters, and I think that makes it work. It works because it doesn't dwell on the poignancy of adoption and what it means to different people, but give it something catchy with its distinct eccentricity.  I liked the fact that we have viewpoints of both Nina and Lindy, which are fairly polar opposites when it comes to what being adopted meant to them. Then add in Phoebe, the mother who gave them up for adoption, gives it a well-rounded take on what factors are in play before and after. 

Nina's search to finding where or to whom does she belong leads her to a potential, yet possibly temporary "family." A family that may need her, but does it mean one she can keep? Belonging is such a philosophical word, don't you think? And when it comes to family happiness, one's idealistic idea may not be what one needs or the truth in what it entails. The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness is Nina's journey, and possibly adding in Lindy's as well, though inconclusive.

It reads well, and the author's writing style is interesting, which I do like. Though the plot starts strong, it kind of plateaus a bit in the middle, creating a slight drag when trying to read through.  However, it does pick back up with great momentum two-thirds in. In all, The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness was surprisingly enjoyable, witty and downright messy, but messy may very well be what it means to be family. 

"The slightest bit delusional...but filled with hope and optimism." (244)

For my clean readers, there are minor profanity and mentioned of intimacy but not graphic.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and have not been compensated for this. This is my honest opinion.

For my review policy, please see my Disclosure page.



Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day-care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of four previous novels: The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.

TO CONNECT WITH MADDIE:  Website | Facebook Twitter 

Check out the full tour schedule for more information! Click on the image below to take you there.



  1. I kinda had mixed feelings about this one too when i reviewed it for RT!

  2. For family happiness you need harmony and understanding. Working out conflicts and differences by communicating earnestly.

  3. I haven't read her books yet. My idea for family happiness is having dinner together and talking about our day and what is coming up in our lives. Communication.

  4. I haven't read any of these books. My idea is spending time together, laughing, and talking.

  5. I'm glad you enjoyed this one overall. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  6. I haven't read this author's books before.
    My idea for a happy family comes from my own -- we get along best when we spend time together.

  7. I have not read any of the author's other books before but I am excited about reading this one. My idea of family happiness is accepting and loving each other for who they are as an individual. Never hold grudges and try to see the others point of view. Be honest. Also laughter is the best medicine.
    Thank you for the giveaway.


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