Matchmaking for Beginners: A Novel
“This is the kind of book that makes the reader sad when it is finished, because the characters have become such dear and treasured friends.”
The title of Maddie Dawson’s novel gives the reader a good idea of what to expect. If there is matchmaking, there must be romance. If there is romance, there must be obstacles. If there is a beginning matchmaker, there must also be a seasoned matchmaker to instruct the novice. Matchmaking for Beginners delivers charmingly on all these promises.
The inexperienced matchmaker, Marnie MacGraw, thinks she knows what she wants: marriage to her handsome fiancé, Noah. She thinks she knows herself.
Blix Holliday, a veteran matchmaker and Noah’s great-aunt, knows who Marnie is. Blix recognizes Marnie as a kindred spirit the first moment they meet at Marnie and Noah’s engagement party at his snooty parents’ house in Virginia.
Blix knows what Marnie needs, and it certainly isn’t a life with her grandnephew.
These two women of different generations, so distinct and so connected, share the narrative voice in Matchmaking for Beginners, with each chapter heading announcing who is telling the story. This choice serves the tale well, and it makes rooting for both these women as easy as it makes disliking anyone who seeks to do them wrong.
Blix is dying, but she hasn’t told her estranged family. As soon as she can get away from the party, Blix rushes back to her brownstone in Brooklyn.
Five months later, it’s the day of Marnie and Noah’s wedding, which will take place in Marnie’s hometown church in Florida. Everything should be wonderful, but it isn’t. Noah is AWOL, and Marnie is losing her mind.
“I’m not here to make you feel worse,” Blix says to Marnie, “but I just want to tell you that I hope we don’t have to kill him today. But if we do, we do.”
When Noah shows up an hour late and tells Marnie he just can’t get married, Marnie convinces him to go through with the ceremony. At the reception, Blix comforts Marnie and offers to let Marnie borrow her mantra: “Whatever happens, love that.”
Marnie and Noah break up on their honeymoon. He moves out of their apartment in California as soon as they get back. Marnie’s parents arrive unannounced to take Marnie back home to Florida.
In Brooklyn, Blix is arranging a big Irish wake for herself while she is still alive. The morning of the celebration, the angel of death comes to Blix’s bedroom. But it’s not to fetch her. Houndy, the love of Blix’s life, collapses and dies at the party.
As Houndy leaves her, Blix reflects that in this eternal cycle of life, somewhere a baby is being born. And she’s right. It’s Marnie’s niece. And Marnie is with her sister when she goes into labor. These life and death moments are among many in the novel that convey deep emotion in a way so lyrical that it is hard not to get teary.
In Brooklyn, Noah has surprised Blix by arriving at her brownstone. He is shocked to find that she is about to die. In Florida, Marnie gets a letter from Blix’s estate. She has been willed Blix’s home.
Marnie travels to Brooklyn and meets Blix’s friends and tenants. Noah is still there and is not at all gracious when he hears the surprising news that Marnie has inherited the brownstone.
Marnie learns from Blix’s attorney that Blix’s will includes the stipulation that Marnie has to live in the house for three months before it is officially hers. Marnie decides to stay in Brooklyn long enough to become the rightful owner. And she’ll host a Thanksgiving dinner in Blix’s honor. After that, she will sell the brownstone and return to Florida.
Or so Marnie thinks. But Blix might have one more match to make.
Matchmaking for Beginners is a novel that, on occasion, requires some suspension of disbelief. A real estate agent tells Marnie this is not a good time for sales? Of a brownstone in Brooklyn?
And if there are perhaps a few moments in this book that skirt cliché, this potential shortcoming is negated by the compassion and enchantment of this story and by its tremendously satisfying ending.
This is the kind of book that makes the reader sad when it is finished, because the characters have become such dear and treasured friends.
This is the kind of book that demands the reading of just one more chapter at two in the morning.
This is a lovely kind of book.