The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness

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Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Pages: 384
ISBN13: 978-1503939103



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 that they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers. And for family.

Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to 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 the two girls she was forced to give up for adoption so long ago. 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 just the same. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA and everything to do with opening up your heart.


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*A PopSugar Fall Pick*
Chosen as one of the best books of fall by Deep South Magazine
Chosen as one of The Best Books of October by Liz and Lisa

“Maddie Dawson writes a charming story about family in her new novel, The Survivor’s Guide to Family 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.”
—Associated Press

“Maddie Dawson’s novels should come with a warning label: May cause tears, laughter, or all of the above.”
–Sarah Knight, bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck

“Maddie Dawson is one of those gifted writers who spins seemingly comic, romantic tales that tackle our most universal longings for love, connection and family. I loved every witty sentence.”
– Holly Robinson, author of Chance Harbor and Beach Plum Island

“There are so many things to love about The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness. But what I loved most is how the characters lingered with me long after I turned the last page.”
– Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author

“Dawson (The Opposite of Maybe, 2014, etc.) is a generous storyteller, creating characters who are both complex and unexpected while being wholly relatable.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“In this heartfelt novel, Dawson weaves together the stories of three very different women who are bound by blood, delving deeply into the true meaning of family.”

“In Nina, Dawson introduces a lovable, flawed character challenged by day-to-day life and searching for love and a feeling of belonging… Nina is delightful and spirited, and her engaging, charming story illustrates the humor and quirkiness of life.”
—Library Journal

“Engaging writing and compelling characters seize readers from the first chapter of Dawson’s latest novel. The examination of family – in all its forms and fashions –makes this an ideal book club read.”
—RT Book Reviews

“Maddie Dawson is a brilliant writer, letting us into the character’s minds so intimately that we feel like we know them personally, like only a great writer can do.”
— Erin Toland,

“This book should definitely be on your To Read list. It would make a great book club selection, as there is much fodder for discussion. What makes up a family? How important is it? Do we ever really feel like we belong? Is it really crazy to throw food out your back door in protest?”
— Christina Huber, from


The morning after my mother’s funeral, before I had changed the sheets on her bed, before I even knew if I was going to survive living without her, I went into the kitchen and took the fifteen unlabeled casserole dishes from the refrigerator and, one by one, scooped out their moldy contents and hurled all that food out the back door into the snow.

It was the happiest I’d felt in weeks. No, months.

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