The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson (3 Stars)

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

This is Nina Popkin’s story of how her life begins after her divorce and her adopted mother’s death.  She begins a search for her birth mother, as she has spent her whole life looking at people and wondering if they “belong” to her.  Along the way, she finds her sister, a husband, two teen-aged stepchildren, and others that “belong” to her.

The story is told from her point of view, her birth mother’s (Phoebe) and her sister’s (Lindy).  It begins with the pregnant teenaged Phoebe leaving Nina at home and sneaking out of the house, leading to a night of disaster that will change everyone’s life.  Fast forward 30+ years, and Nina is opening the back door of the house to throw funeral casseroles (food, dish and all) out the door.  I was all prepared to not like Nina, who was childish, impetuous and clingy.  Not only did she fling the casseroles out the door, she’s still texting her remarried ex-husband.  His new wife, oh yeah, the one he had an affair with, is upset with Nina as she isn’t respecting their boundaries.  However, this was so out of character for her as she ended up being the fixer and it never really did make sense to me.

If it weren’t for the writing style, I wouldn’t have finished the book.  The story is a cliche:  there’s some angst along the way, but there’s a storybook ending to it and everyone lives happily ever.  The writing, however, is witty and will make you laugh.  Anyone who has raised teenagers will appreciate those passages in the book.  You know, where you try to remain outwardly calm while trying to silence the really loud screams in your head like WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?? OVER MY DEAD BODY!! YOU ARE GROUNDED FOREVER MISTER!!

This was a little on the long side, and sometimes there was way too much detail about nothing, but it was still enjoyable.  Quite a few storylines to keep you interested, and great character development.

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