Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.
When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.
And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.
Hardcover: 370 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (June 1, 2018)
I hadn't read any of Maddie Dawson's work before--although I have seen it and meant too, but something about Matchmaking for Beginners caught my eye. The gorgeous cover in one of my favorite colors, the need for a bit of fluff and fun in the midst of my usual darker or more serious books, and matchmaking--I am a sucker for matchmaking stories. I quickly signed up for the tour and I am so happy I did. What a sweet, fun, and enjoyable book!
You can't help but love Marnie, a teacher who just wants to marry her boyfriend and start a simple life. While at an after-holiday party with her boyfriend's family, Marnie is befriended by its black sheep, Great-Aunt Blix, a colorful matchmaker in her eighties who senses a kindred spirit in Marnie and ends up leaving her an apartment in Brooklyn with the stipulation that Marnie live there for three months before she can sell it. Back at home in Florida after her marriage suddenly ends, Marnie has just started to feel like her life is coming together towards the happy future she wants and isn't sure she wants the slightly crumbling but charming brownstone and its group of occupants and neighbors that made up Blix's family (she's also pretty sure it's not a good idea that her ex-husband is now bunking with her), but she's also finding some of Blix's 'magic' as well as starting to find her own.
Blix is that engaging and eccentric relative we all want, and the supporting characters are interesting and easy to wish well for--even Noah, Marnie's ex. The apartment is delightful--I want to paint my boring white refrigerator turquoise and live in a fun little city neighborhood. Blix's life lessons and legacy of hopes for her friends are meaningful--I need to adopt her mantra of "whatever happens, love that." There are no big surprises in the book, it's just a breezy, heart-pleasing story--the kind of book you can tuck into a beach bag, or curl up in your favorite chair and escape with. Matchmaking for Beginners was a pleasure to read, it make me smile and I was sad to turn the final page. I will definitely be looking at Maddie Dawson's other books.
Author Notes: Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.
Connect with Maddie via her website, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram
There is a good amount of food in Matchmaking for Beginners including a red holiday cocktail. Welsh rarebit, chocolate almonds, ice cream, beer, Bloody Marys, cheeseburger and onion rings, lobster, poached eggs, salmon, kale-strawberry smoothies, bread with seeds and sprouts, chocolate chip cookies, mushroom omelet, iced coffee, eggs, meatloaf with two cheeses, granola bars, six-layer dip with four melted cheeses, red onion and avocado, oatmeal and cranberries, instant pudding out of the package, cupcakes with fortunes baked in, a salad of iceberg lettuce, carrots and celery, hamburgers, roasted veggies, American cheese, Wonder Bread, canned vegetables, cakes, pickles, tacos, a burrito, eggs at a restaurant called Yolk, muffins, a cheese omelet with bacon coffee grits and whole grain toast, maple syrup on pancakes, chai lattes, subs, German pancakes, brownies, apple pie with crust with butter, fried fish and tuna, pizza, chicken salad, cheese and grapes, chicken with mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe, almond flour, Irish butter, vanilla cheesecake, whiskey, egg sandwiches, cream puffs with vanilla pudding, a potluck Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, green bean casserole, pumpkin pies, clam chowder, squash casserole, dinner rolls, sliced roast beef, beet salad, onion soup, Grey Poupon, and lobsters, cinnamon buns, popovers, oatmeal and pancakes.
I wasn't sure what I was going to make for my book-inspired dish with so many different foods and inspiration to turn to. If I were a baker I might have tried to perfect Maggie's momentary career plan of creating cupcakes with paper fortunes in them or made one of Patrick's (haunted and hurting tenant that Blix wanted to find love for) pies, or popovers or vanilla cheesecake or cream puffs. Lobster's played a role in the story, as did a few other key dishes. I finally decided on eggs--there are plenty in the book--omelets, poached eggs, a restaurant with the best eggs, called Yolk. Then, Sammy, the son of one of Blix's tenants performs at a school concert and reads a poem he wrote about his broken-up family:
"The poem isn't long. It's about a boy looking at a plate of over-easy eggs and thinking how his father is the yellow part and his mother is the white part, the surrounding stuff that holds the family all together, but then later when he's eating a hard-boiled egg, the boy sees the yellow part hop out and fall away. Then there's something in there about the boy noticing that he's the piece of toast; he's not the thing that holds the yolk and white part together, but the thing that they can both join with, like he's an egg sandwich maybe?--and then it's done, and the air comes back in the room, and everybody claps for him."
I was going to make an egg sandwich because I eat them a lot, but I have posted then for books before, so when a Mark Bittman recipe for Spaghetti with Fried Egg showed up in my New York Times Cooking email feed this week, I decided that the combination of fried, over-easy eggs and pasta, all mixed together was a good dish for the book--plus I was craving it too much not to make it. ;-)
Mark Bittman says, "Here's a quick and delicious pasta dish to make when you have little time, and even less food in the house. All you need is a box of spaghetti, four eggs, olive oil and garlic (Parmesan is a delicious, but optional, addition)."
Note: I thought I had spaghetti but when I went to make this dish I remembered I gave my spaghetti and linguine to the recent mail carrier's food drive and just had the thicker bucatini.
Spaghetti with Fried Eggs
Slightly Adapted from Mark Bittman via the NewYorkTimes.com
(Serves 2 or 3)
1/2 lb thin spaghetti (I used buccatini)
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, optional
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Start the sauce in the next step, and start cooking the pasta when the water boils.
Combine garlic and 4 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil occasionally to release its flavor; it should barely color on both sides. Remove the garlic, and add the remaining oil.
Fry the eggs gently in the oil, until the whites are just about set and the yolks still quite runny. Drain the pasta, and toss with the eggs and oil, breaking up the whites as you do. (The eggs will finish cooking in the heat of the pasta.) Season to taste, and serve immediately, with cheese if you like.
Notes/Results: Why I haven't been making this before I do not know. I have topped pasta with fried eggs before but not broken them up, and often pesto is involved. This is a very quick and simple pasta dinner that comes together from fridge and pantry staples. I definitely think a thinner noodle is the way to go here to make breaking up the eggs and mixing it in the pasta easier, but I do love bucatini and that way that little hole in the center changes up the texture of the pasta. The cheese is optional but even a small sprinkling (I used pecorino-romano) does give it that extra decadent touch. I made a half recipe because you really want to eat this one hot and fresh, and it made a very large serving that I had no problem inhaling. I will happily make this again and again.
I'm linking this post up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week is our monthly Potluck--any recipe from our current or any of our past IHCC chefs--like Mark Bittman.
I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "Matchmaking for Beginners" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.