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A Year by the Sea

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  5,248 Ratings  ·  565 Reviews
Now available in paperback, the entrancing story of how one woman's journey of self-discovery gave her the courage to persevere in re-creating her life.

Life is a work in progress, as ever-changing as a sandy shoreline along the beach. During the years Joan Anderson was a loving wife and supportive mother, she had slowly and unconsciously replaced her own dreams with the ne
Paperback, 190 pages
Published August 15th 2000 by Broadway Books (first published 1999)
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109th out of 252 books — 223 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rebecca Foster
Jul 28, 2016 Rebecca Foster rated it really liked it
To coin a genre, I’d call this a Feminist-Midlife-Marriage-Nature Memoir. I recommend it to readers of May Sarton because of the solitude theme, which often has an almost spiritual aspect to it. There is a sense that the author is on a pilgrimage or retreat, and the natural setting is in some way the key to healing.

When her husband moved for work, Joan Anderson decided not to go with him but instead to retreat to their Cape Cod cottage for a year and work on figuring out what she really wanted f
Jan 23, 2009 Leah rated it really liked it
This is a tough book to rate. I rarely review books, but I felt that I needed to get this one off my chest.

I gave it one less than 5 stars because I have an aversion to the cult of self. The premise of a woman leaving her husband to discover herself made me uneasy and skeptical. Self-discovery is important, self-worship is not. I feel that she often slipped from redemptive moments involving lessons about who she is and who she needs to be... to damning moments in which she embraced her errors an
May 03, 2009 Tamidel rated it did not like it
Basically this book represents everything I hate about this genre: it's self-indulgent and, worse, self-pitying. Joan Anderson is fortunate enough to have the means to take an extended period of time "off" from her marriage and mid-life crisis to figure herself out, but the life lessons virtually slip past her as she wallows in the "shoulda-couldas" of her life until now. Her story in not at all unusual, nor, frankly, all that sad or interesting. And unlike Elizabeth Gilbert in EAT, PRAY, LOVE, ...more
Joan Anderson's husband came home to announce he'd received a wonderful job opportunity across country in Oregon and they were moving. Their two grown sons were married and living lives of their own, and nothing seemed to be tying the Andersons to their home.

Joan shocked her husband and herself when she told him she refused to go and was instead moving to the family cottage on Cape Cod. Thus began a year in her life, living hand to mouth, on the banks of the Cape.

The book was a little bit of "A
Aug 21, 2008 Denise rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who need to kill time.
Well...must say I am surprised that the average rating for this piece of drivel was near four stars. What a selfish bitch. Sorry. Can I even say that on Bookmooch???? Anyone who can desert a husband of twenty odd years to go off on a quest to find herself at their "cottage" on the cape...guess she really DID need a year to find out she really wanted to stay married to her husband. Saving grace? The quotes at the start of each chapter were often enlightening. If they weren't there, this would be ...more
Sally G.
Jul 23, 2012 Sally G. rated it it was amazing
Three friends and I recently read this book as a Book Club selection: and to a person, we were captured by it.

This is not your typical Reflective Memoir Toward Personal Growth (is there even a 'typical' for this genre?). Two of us are more Self introspective, reflective, self-assessors -- and two of us are not. A book we'd all read together last year in a similar vein was deemed by two of us to be 'self-absorbed whining by women who aren't busy enough to find anything better to do'. We all walke
Oct 30, 2009 Lynne rated it really liked it
Loved this book by Joan Anderson, who wrote it while going through a difficult time in her relationship with her husband. She decided to move to their cottage by the sea to ponder. For a year. Hmm.... Honey, I need some time to ponder. I'll be back in a year. I don't know how many people do that, but still, she pondered, and she wrote a book. Her writing is beautiful.

I pull my knees to my chest, wrap my arms around my shins, and drink in the sweet, pungent aroma of driftwood as the sun, salt, an
Mar 05, 2012 Leah rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much! Basically, I love any book about a middle aged strong woman who goes to the beach to find herself, like Anne Morrow Lindbergh and women in that vein.

Joan Anderson decides not to move cross country when her husband tells her he's gotten a new job. Instead she pauses and decides that if her marriage is going to be saved at any point in time she needs to be alone to find herself, so she heads to Cape Cod and lives with among the locals for a year. She has occasional mome
Aug 17, 2011 Tania rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. Truly, I wanted to love it. I just couldn't. I don't necessarily have a problem with needing a trial separation from one's spouse. I can see why Anderson would've been angry when her husband came home one day and just said, 'I took a job out of state. We're moving.' For him to just presume something like that and demand she come with him was not ok in my book.

That said, Anderson's narration didn't feel honest. She didn't seem to acknowledge her part in the marital iss
May 17, 2009 Mollyj96 rated it really liked it
I guess I'm glad to hear that so many of the reviewers have never been in a position to find themselves or feel that any of part of themselves has been lost. I on the other hand can see how a woman who has taken care of a husband and children for 20 years might not feel so in tuned with who she really is. Therefore I commend this woman for having the balls to leave and be alone for a year and really see what that's like. I think it's easier to stay in a marriage you are not happy with and foreve ...more
Sep 05, 2013 Vivian rated it really liked it
I read this book over a period of about six months, picking it up and putting it down as the mood would strike. One thing I'm sure of is that this is not a story that will appeal to everyone, but for women of a certain age (you know who you are!) who have made sacrifices for their family (and who hasn't?) and now wonders who she is now...well, this narrative might touch something very deep inside. I could relate to Joan's story, with the fact that she didn't just want to blindly follow her husba ...more
Jan 26, 2010 Anne rated it did not like it
HATED, HATED, HATED IT. If you really like books about whiney women who believe that providing love, food, shelter, clothing, and anything else that costs money does NOT mean you are providing for the family, you may like this. I wonder what a book about a man who suddenly leave his wife to "find himself" would be rated? Somehow, I think women would condemn a man who leaves his wife of 20+ years, so I don't understand why so many cheer this woman on. She keeps claiming to be independent during h ...more
Aug 12, 2007 Karen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women who do too much
This is a great book! Joan Anderson has raised two grown sons and is in a stale marriage but not ready to give it up without looking deep inside herself. When her husband accepts a job that means they would have to move away and doesn't consult her first, she decides to pack up and move to their Cape Cod cottage for a year. This is a story of a woman who learns about herself, about life, and what is important to her. I've met Joan a couple of times and attended one of her mini-seminars...she's v ...more
Jun 25, 2011 Sara rated it did not like it
Oh please.
May 20, 2012 Cindy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club, memoir
Lovely, poetic musings by a 50 year old who leaves her husband to find herself.

In two hours her husband, two sons and daughter's in law are arriving for Memorial Day weekend:

"Oh God, let me enjoy the pleasure of being graceful! As I gaze about the patio at the flowering perennials that endure year after year, I do myself a favor and recognize that I am no more or less than the perennial that provides the bulk of the lush backdrop for her family and those around her. It has taken years of growin
Oct 25, 2009 Lori rated it really liked it
Joan Anderson writes a beautiful memoir of a year in her life in which she struggles with her path and the changes she feels are necessary for her growth. Some people may view this book as a selfish and indulgent mid life crisis episode and others, including myself, may view it as a wonderful transformative experience to be envied and learned from. How you feel about this book is dependent on your view.
When her husband arrives home one day excited over the news that he has taken a new job in ano
Jan 21, 2009 Chelsea rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERY WOMAN!!!
This book deserves 6 stars or more!!!!
This book was simply amazing and changed the way I look at my own life. This book caught my interest in the 1st page. Joan is married and has 2 boys, grown up and married with lives of their own. When her husband's new job calls to relocate, she surprises him as well as herself, and goes to New Haven, to their summer home. To think things out and find herself, taking a break from her marriage that has fallen to the wayside. Not following her husband, she at
Oct 15, 2007 Cathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Reminded me of A Gift Frome the Sea in some ways. I really enjoyed this and especially loved the way she brought meaning into the every day things that we sometimes pass over too quickly. In some reviews I've read here some people didn't like the decision she mad at the end. I was good with that. It's ok to grow and still have your original essense be the core of attraction. In fact that is probably the best possible outcome. What I would have liked tho was for it to continue a little farther on ...more
Aug 23, 2011 Sharon rated it really liked it
A few times in my life, I have read exactly the right book at exactly the right moment. This summer was that moment for this book. A writer, who is around 50 years old, takes a year off from her normal life to rediscover herself and to find her new calling. Some of my favorite moments are when she swims with the seals, when she walks in the fog, and when she figures out how to finance urgently needed roof repairs. Joan Anderson asks, "Doesn't change occur only when we stop living the expected li ...more
Victoria Anderson
Aug 10, 2016 Victoria Anderson rated it it was ok
My dissatisfaction with this book springs both from the writing itself and from the content. Ms. Anderson also writes children's books, which is perhaps why she takes the phrase "blurted out" seriously. I cannot. Her writing isn't unreadable, but it has a savor of the juvenile. Her verb choice is often overblown for drama's sake, and her metaphors are cliché. (For instance, from the third page: "[I] thought I'd fix his melancholia somehow, lifting him above the darkness he had grown so used to c ...more
Dec 06, 2014 Elvan rated it liked it
A memoir of a year of self discovery by a woman who did everything for her family and nothing to enrich her spirit. When her husband takes a job in Oregon assuming she would follow she takes her mid life crisis self and says hell no, I won't go. Instead she heads to their cottage on the Cape and spends a year communing with seal colonies and the local fisherman. She gets a couple of jobs working in a fish market and digging for clams to pay her bills and discover herself.

There is nothing profo
Christine Fay
Jul 22, 2016 Christine Fay rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
At one point in my life, my family’s needs came before my own. Too much of that, and life goes out of balance. Joan sought to strike some balance in her life as she found herself at a crossroads – either continue to please her husband and family, or strike out on her own and please herself. This is a memoir of what she discovered about herself while she took a time-out from her family to see what it was she truly wanted out of life. A recommended read if you can relate with the subject matter.

Jun 14, 2010 Jinny rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, women
I enjoyed this surprisingly forthright account of a middle-aged woman's self-discovery and renewal. My life as a 47-year-old has been different than the author's (who is older than I) -- I'm not a parent, and have never filled the kind of role she did with her husband in the earlier part of their union. Still, it's easy to identify with the need for silence, introspection, reflection, and a break from the routine of decades. And if only it were possible, financially, for more women to take a "sa ...more
Sarah Sammis
Jul 27, 2011 Sarah Sammis rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2006
Women who hit their midlife crisis point seem to go to the ocean to write a memoir. Sometimes it works, like Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea and sometimes it misfires like A Year by the Sea. Throughout the book I could not relate to most of Anderson's life-changing insights. She writes of wanting to be "completed" by her husband and sons and not understanding how one can "laugh at one's self." While I adore my husband and children, I do not judge myself by them nor do I feel "incomplete" without t ...more
Diana Stout
Mar 22, 2016 Diana Stout rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was a powerful read for me. I couldn't put it down, and it made me want to find my own cottage, alone from everyone else. Great introspection, and I loved the details about the surroundings.
Lee Roversi
Aug 01, 2014 Lee Roversi rated it really liked it
it has been a long time since i have read a book that prompted me to underline so many passages. this is a gem of a book, not unlike anne morrow lindbergh's "gift from the sea." it is thought provoking and reaffirming, at the same time.
Deborah Day
Jan 09, 2016 Deborah Day rated it really liked it
A nice, simple, easy read. The author shares her personal journey after many years of marriage and how she dealt with her struggles of whether to stay or leave the marriage. This is good for any woman especially one who is been in a long-term relationship. Insightful in many ways
Kait Brannen
Jul 08, 2014 Kait Brannen rated it really liked it
This is the 3rd time I've read this book and every time I read it I get something different from it.
Mar 17, 2009 Lainey rated it really liked it
I found myself both envying and identifying with this self-proclaimed "unfinished" woman; to be able to jaunt off and hide out in complete seclusion while she sorted out her life's events appeals greatly to me, as does her unexpected self-discovery of personal strength and fortitude as she pursues a harsh line of work with determination. That there was no fairytale ending, I felt satisfaction in her realization that she was an accomplished, self-sufficient, deserving person who would be just fin ...more
Jackie Gately
Jul 23, 2016 Jackie Gately rated it it was amazing
I picked up A Year by the Sea from the "featured" table at my local bookstore as a quick summer read and was surprised to find an original publication date of 1999. How ironic that I would just discover it now, as I am about to be empty-nesting and approaching my own next chapter, looking forward to "finding myself," much as Joan sought to do after raising her family.

As you might expect from an introspective memoire of a middle-aged woman living a year down the Cape, there is not a lot of action
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Ever since I can remember I have been curious—asking questions, trying to figure out life’s meaning—all in an effort to live fully and get it right. My career began as a stringer reporter for the Gannett newspaper chain. As I practiced the craft of writing, I moved on to photo essays books for children, then the breakthrough book, Breaking the TV Habit, and finally into the genre of memoir. The la ...more
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“When will I ever learn to accept what is given instead of always yearning for more? My lavish expectations too often tarnish my blessings.” 13 likes
“Woman must come of age by herself. She must find her true center alone. —Anne Morrow Lindbergh,” 2 likes
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