At the very start of Maddie Dawson's novel, "Matchmaking for Beginners," readers are introduced to Marnie MacGraw at her fiancee's family Christmas party. The action takes off when Marnie commits the unforgivable sin of refusing the hostess' rarebit, thinking it's a dish made from rabbit, and Blix, a boisterous Brooklynite and Marnie's future great-aunt, swoops in to rescue Marnie.
Blix recognizes in Marnie a kindred spirit — as both women, one just starting out in life and the other nearing the end, possess an uncanny ability to recognize love and its potential.
Despite her extrasensory abilities, Marnie fails to recognize the flaws in her future husband who abandons her at the altar — almost. The marriage lasts just two weeks, and its demise sends Marnie into crippling depression. She retreats to her parents and married sister, whose domesticity becomes a model for Marnie.
Marnie tries to convince herself that she's made for her own version of suburban solitude with a former beau. But Blix's will reveals that her ageing brownstone and its quirky residents have been left to Marnie. The young woman is stunned and plunged into turmoil once again.
Despite the deceptively thin volume, Dawson rolls out a cast of endearing and realistic characters and a rollickingly fun story-line full of skillfully drawn twists and turns. Readers see shades of "Tales of the City" as the naively sweet Marnie is introduced to Brooklyn, which stands up on its own as a key character.
The novel is simply captivating from beginning to end.
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