Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Review: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Do you know Robert Burns' "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?" If not, I'm sure you're familiar with the concept. No matter how well you plan something, no matter how many contingencies you plan for, no matter how solid everything seems, there's just no guarantee that fate will allow the plan to happen. And sometimes that's for the best, even if it doesn't seem like it at the moment. This is very true for main character Marnie MacGraw in Maddie Dawson's newest novel, Matchmaking for Beginners.

Marnie is on the verge of marrying the man she loves and settling down into the happy, ordinary domesticity she's always wanted when she meets her fiance Noah's kindly and eccentric Great Aunt Blix. Blix, who the family thinks is batty (and not in a good way), tells Marnie that she's going to live a big, big life. Although this isn't what Marnie wants, she and Blix hit it off, realizing that they share some very special matchmaking and magic skills, both in tune with the people and environment around them. When Marnie and Noah's marriage has a rough start and then completely falls apart after less than two weeks, Marnie is completely devastated, returning home to Florida to heal and recover, and quickly ending up in a serious relationship, more or less by default, with an old friend who promises to want the same tame and conventional life that she does, the life she thought she would build with Noah. And it seems that Marnie will get her wish of a predictable and expected life until Blix, who has been ill for a long time, dies and leaves Marnie her quirky, slightly shabby Brooklyn brownstone and the assorted tenants and friends who live in it with the stipulation Marnie has to live in the house for three months in order to inherit. Surprising everyone, not least herself, Marnie agrees to the terms and moves in.

As Marnie lives in Blix's house, she starts to question what she really wants, to get involved in the lives of Blix's beloved but emotionally damaged tenants, and to build a life in Brooklyn, starting to muster the courage to reject convention and find the life she's supposed to live. Marnie evolves from being uncertain, making poor choices the reader can see from a mile away, and allowing others to dictate her life and suppress her natural joie de vivre to embracing all the painful and wonderful chaos that is life, and learning, as Blix told her, that love is in fact the most important thing of all. The small touches of magic, like Marnie and Blix seeing sparkles around things and people, are both magic sounding and synesthesia-like and add an extra bit of charm to the story.  The matchmaking, referenced in the title, actually plays a much smaller role than might be expected.  The secondary characters mainly orbit around Blix and later Marnie although it would have been satisfying to have had more to their stories than there is. Blix was a lovely character and her personal mantra, "whatever happens, love that," sums up not only the way she lived her own life and advised Marnie to live hers but also the way that we readers should live ours as well. The novel is sweet and delightful and reminds us that we can control the color of the light that surrounds us. We can choose goodness and love no matter what. Readers looking for an ultimately affirming, positive book will be thoroughly gratified by the time they spend in the pages of this novel.

For more information about Maddie Dawson and the book, check out her webpage, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Lake Union for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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