Thursday, November 29, 2018

Book Review: "Matchmaking for Beginners" by Maddie Dawson

What a terrific, sweet charmer of a book this was!!

Every family has at least one oddball, one eccentric. Free-spirited Blix Holliday is her family's black sheep, and that doesn't bother her one bit, because she doesn't like them much anyway.

She believes there's a perfect match for everyone, she believes in thought energy, watching people's auras, and her ability to wish things into existence—and she has a book of spells to prove it. Now in her 80s and terminally ill, she wants to live whatever time she has left on her own terms, surrounded by joy and those she loves.

"This is a family that is rotten at its core, no matter what the decor tells you. I see things as they are, right through the fakery and pretense. I can still remember when this place really was authentically grand, before Wendy Spinnaker decided to throw thousands of dollars into some kind of fake restoration of its façade. But that sums up this family's philosophy of life perfectly: plaster over the real stuff, and slap a veneer on the top. Nobody will know. But I know."

When she meets Marnie MacGraw, her great-nephew's fiancée, she immediately feels the two are kindred spirits. Both share some of the same abilities, like the ability to see when two people are destined for one another. But Marnie just wants a normal life—husband, kids, a house in the suburbs—so she doesn't believe Blix when she tells her that there's a great big life out there waiting for, an exciting one far beyond the comforts she craves.

"The subversive truth about love is that it really is the big deal everyone makes it out to be, and it's not some form of security or an insurance policy against loneliness. It's everything, love is. It runs the whole universe!"

Marnie's marriage ends shortly after it began (and it never quite began), but she still can't believe that Blix was right, and that she's capable of exciting things. Little by little, she pulls her life back together and starts to trust her heart again, only to be thrown for another loop, when she learns that Blix has died and bequeathed her brownstone in Brooklyn. (Of course, the bequest isn't as straightforward as she expected.) But it's not just the house—Blix has "left" Marnie all of her pet projects; namely, her friends who are all desperate for love but they just don't see themselves as ready, or even worthy.

So now Marnie finds herself in Brooklyn, uprooting her life and those closest to her once again. She's looking for a quick resolution to the whole brownstone issue, so she can get back to Florida and the plans she's made for her future. She doesn't understand how Blix thought her capable of greatness, because she just wants ordinary comforts. Yet as she settles into her life in Brooklyn and deals with some unexpected surprises and challenges, she starts to realize that perhaps Blix's work needs to be carried on—and maybe she's the one who needs to do it. The only challenge is, she needs a little of this work herself.

"Everybody wants love, and the ones who appear to want it the least actually need it the most."

This was one of those books that feels like a great big hug. It hooked me from the very first page and didn't let go, and I found myself utterly immersed in these characters. Is it predictable? Sure. Did it matter? Not in the slightest. This book was the perfect antidote to the heavy books I've read most recently, and it not only made me smile, but it made me tear up through the smiles, too.

I thought Maddie Dawson did such a terrific job creating quirky and complex characters. Not everyone is likable (just like real life), and not everyone is 100 percent good or selfless (again, just like real life), but even though the book made me believe that just a little touch of magic and mysticism can exist in our world, it also was tremendously believable, because quite often the people who can be difficult to love are the ones who need that love most.

Three cheers for Matchmaking for Beginners. When you need something to charm you, pick this one up.

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