Love and loss in Daw­son’s new book

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in New York

Mad­die Daw­son writes a charm­ing story about fam­ily in her new novel, The Sur­vivor’sGuide toFam­ily Hap­pi­ness. Read­ers are trans­ported back and forth be­tween a mother who gave up her baby for adop­tion and that daugh­ter’s even­tual jour­ney to know the story of her life.

It’s 1979 and 17-year-old Phoebe Mullen is des­per­ate. Her par­ents are dead and she lives with her newly mar­ried sis­ter in a house that clearly sits on the wrong side of the tracks from her rich boyfriend Til­ton O’Mal­ley.

Phoebe had Til­ton’s baby two years ago and now they are ex­pect­ing an­other child. His mother wants her son to go off to col­lege and pre­tend all is right with the world.

Thirty-five years later, Nina Pop­kin finds her­self start­ing a new chap­ter in her life. She’s of­fi­cially an or­phan, thanks to her mother’s can­cer, is re­cently di­vorced and wants noth­ing more than to find her birth mother.

Af­ter reach­ing a po­ten­tial dead-end at the or­phan­age where she was dropped off when she was 2 years old, Nina learns she has a sis­ter, Lindy, who lives in the same city. Lindy wants lit­tle to do with Nina or her quest to find their birth mother.

Nina doesn’t take “no” for an an­swer— and Lindy gives in. To­gether, they un­cover bits of in­for­ma­tion and even­tu­ally find Phoebe. They weren’t ex­pect­ing the harsh re­al­ity that their mother didn’t want to be found.

Nina falls in love with a di­vorced man along the way and quickly en­ters his world, tak­ing his ornery teenage son and daugh­ter un­der her wing. Her ef­fer­ves­cent per­son­al­ity and sheer grit slowly break Lindy down, and be­fore Nina knows it, Lindy is be­hav­ing like a lov­ing sis­ter in­stead of a stranger with many phys­i­cal sim­i­lar­i­ties.

Daw­son weaves an en­dear­ing story of love and loss in The Sur­vivor’s Guide to Fam­ily Hap­pi­ness. Read­ers share Nina’s ups and downs as she tack­les the ori­gin of her story with op­ti­mism.

With ev­ery new dis­cov­ery and ev­ery new ad­ven­ture, Nina slowly re­al­izes that “be­long­ing” is a state of mind.

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