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Joy for Beginners

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,334 Ratings  ·  1,126 Reviews
"Moving, touching, wonderfully written, inspiring to read." -Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

At an intimate, festive dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer. Wineglass in hand, Kate strikes a bargain with them. To celebrate her new lease on life, she'll do the one thing that's always terrified he
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 9th 2011 by Putnam Adult (first published January 1st 2011)
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Best Women's Fiction Novels
112th out of 1,246 books — 1,209 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 11, 2011 Merand rated it it was amazing
I love Bauermeister's writing! I don't know how she manages to do it. Every word is perfect, every description tangible, every moment striking. There are many books I have given 5 stars too - usually because the story is fun or enjoyable, not necessarily because the writing itself is so incredible. I loved Bauermeister's first book and am equally enthralled with her second.

Now that's not to say that this book is easy. Far from it, for me anyway. The author explores all manner of loss and betraya
May 26, 2011 Jill rated it it was ok
A few years ago, a new phrase burst into our vernacular: the bucket list, based on a movie in which two men confront their limitations and prepare a list of things they must do. The list is predictably exotic: skydiving, flying over the North Pole, eating dinner at Chevre d’Or in France.

In Joy for Beginners, it’s the women’s turn to enact that list. On an uncharacteristically sunny day in Seattle, six women assemble to celebrate their friend Kate’s clean bill of health from breast cancer. Unbekn
Mar 25, 2013 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Normally I would never rate a book in the "chick lit" genre more than 4 stars. But, this book made me do something I've never before done; I re read it the same week I finished it. I felt like the characters were calling me back to get to know them better. And, when I read about the six women again, I realized that they all had something to tell me. Each chapter is about one of six friends who are in a pact to complete a personal challenge. Caroline is recovering from a husband who traded her in ...more
May 09, 2011 Kristen rated it it was ok
When I first read the synopsis of this book, it sounded like something I would really enjoy. I liked the premise, the thought of character development and growth; however, I found little of that in this book. I kept on trying to like this book, but it just didn't work for me. I think that Erica Bauermeister had a really good plot idea, but the book was too short for it to ever develop. Seven women's stories are told in this book, each getting their own chapter to highlight their adventure that K ...more
Nov 14, 2015 MaryG2E rated it really liked it
I greatly enjoyed this charming book about a group of Seattle-based women whose lives intertwine. Aged from about 35 to 55, the women are connected as relatives, friends, neighbours or colleagues. Generally speaking they can be relied on to be there for each other when things get tough. Most recently they have been there for Kate, supporting her as she underwent surgery and chemotherapy in a grim battle against breast cancer. At a dinner party to celebrate Kate's remission, they are all given a ...more
May 10, 2012 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks-a-z
Post Listen Review: Can I give this one negative stars? I complain a lot about the romance books I have to hear to listen to all the audiobooks in the library but at least those don't take themselves as seriously as this one does. It is called Joy for Beginners but it gave me pretty much the opposite emotion.

People in my generation tend to get a lot of flack for being self absorbed but I have to tell you that we have nothing on these women in this book. I will give a short plot summary and poin
I must preface my remarks by saying that I read this book AFTER having just finished Les Miserables, Jesus Land and Love and Other Demons. So, it can't really hold a candle to ANY of those really wonderful works of literature. This does get FIVE stars for being the chickiest chick lit I have ever laid eyes on. It's about seven women living very conventional woman-y lives--all in or just out of relationships, or suffering from woman diseases (breast cancer), or doing woman-y things. Not that ther ...more
May 28, 2012 Jean rated it did not like it
I didn't find anything joyful about it.
Carol E.
Aug 21, 2012 Carol E. rated it it was ok
Shelves: senior-citizens
This book was too predictable and too perfect. The character, Kate, chooses challenges for each of her friends who had supported her through a bout with cancer. Magically, she manages to choose just the perfect challenge for each friend, even though some of them were secret longings within a friend's own mind. How could she have known these so perfectly?

Of course, each challenge resulted in just the right amount of work, introspection, revelations, and empowerment. Too cliche, too perfect, and e
Jun 28, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it
(fiction) Joy for Beginners – what a lovely title. Still, I was afraid as I started reading this book that is was going to be too much women's lit for me, all that touchy-feely stuff, too much about emotions and high drama of the OMG kind.

Kate didn't succumb to cancer after all, and her daughter signed both of them for a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, something Kate really didn't want to do, something she would do to please her daughter; pleasing others is what she did best. At her victory-
Jul 11, 2011 Debbie rated it it was amazing
A group of friends amassed over the years by circumstance with as much diversity as similarities jump over one more hurdle in life. The conquering of Breast Cancer is no small feat and the journey not solitary, so on the night of her victory dinner Kate gives each of the friends that brought her to this destination the gift of a challenge. Each challenge is designed especially for it’s recipient, and like many gifts not always appreciated at the time of it’s giving. At the onset these women view ...more
Sep 21, 2011 Shannon rated it really liked it
Joy for Beginners isn't a book that will change your life, but it might change your attitude. It tells the tale of seven friends who have shared life, child rearing, love, divorce, near death and recovery together. Kate is one of the seven friends and has recently fought a battle with breast cancer. Her friends encourage her to go on a white water rafting trip with her daughter and she agrees - but only if they each agree to do one thing that scares them. They agree and Kate tells them she'll ch ...more
Mar 17, 2011 Jackie rated it it was amazing
Erica Bauermeister, author of the luminescent "The School of Essential Ingredients" has done it again. Her new book is told in multiple voices, all women, all having agreed to a challenge that they do one thing that scares them within one year. The catch was that their friend Kate, as part of her celebration for being declared clean of all cancer after 18 months, got to pick what that thing was. Many of the challenges seem benign--"get rid of those books", "learn to make bread"--but when the sto ...more
Aug 13, 2011 Jamie rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like really over-the-top writing
Shelves: read-in-2011
I wanted to like this book. The premise is interesting. I like the idea of all different kinds of belated adventures for women later in life.

I did not enjoy the writing at all. It just screams "trying too hard". It's incredibly flowery and paints very odd descriptions--sometimes I felt like the author was doing writing exercises to come up with these bizarre descriptive passages. (Perhaps the writing exercise would say "combine these two words to describe a scent that evokes this kind of feelin
Dale Harcombe
Oct 10, 2013 Dale Harcombe rated it liked it
This is a story of a friendship. Kate has had cancer and her group of friends have stuck around and supported her. At her celebratory dinner announcing her all clear, Kate drops a bombshell. Kate’s daughter wants her to go white water rafting. Kate agrees but only if each of her friends faces their own challenge which she sets for them.
While this is a gentle story that shows women’s friendships in a positive light and the great support they can be to each other, I struggled with the idea of anyo
Jul 18, 2011 Jessica rated it it was ok
Joy for Beginners follows seven women - Kate, Caroline, Ava, Daria, Marion, Hadley, and Sara. Kate has recently beaten breast cancer and is celebrating with her six best girl friends. As part of her celebration Kate has agreed to go with her daughter white water rafting down the Colorado river, something that completely terrifies her. So, Kate assigns each of her friends a task to complete as well - either something that scares them or something very outside their comfort zone. The premise of th ...more
Susan Robison
Mar 02, 2011 Susan Robison rated it it was amazing
Words cannot describe how much I loved this book. It was one of those books you never wanted to put down, but paced yourself because you never wanted it to be over.

The author had such a way with words that I felt like I could smell the fresh bread baking and feel the damp clay in my hands. The characters were brought on in a way that made most of them feel like you had known them all your life, and wish you actually had.

As Kate gives each of her friend challenges at her victory party, it made
Dec 08, 2011 Agathafrye rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminist, local, literary
If you had to choose one task that terrified you, what would it be? Joy for Beginners tells the story of breast cancer survivor Kate and her six closest friends. At a celebratory dinner party, Kate is pressured to go on a white water rafting trip with her daughter. Kate finally agrees to do so on one condition: each dinner party guest needs to complete a task of Kate's choosing within the year. The tasks are surprising, intimate, and reflective of how well Kate knows each member in her diverse c ...more
Jun 07, 2012 Holli rated it really liked it
This book sticks with you long after it's done. The author's descriptive voice is perfection and I loved reading each word of this novel. You care about each character and you can identify really well with each of them and the stages of life that they are in at the time. The only reason i didn't give it 5 stars is because even though the novel starts out enmeshing all of the characters and showing how they connect... it then goes on to tell the story of each one of them separately. I feel that e ...more
Jun 10, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it
Generally I’m apt to eschew books about groups of women and their interrelationships. It seems too much of the “same old, same old” to me, and a cheap way to achieve sentimentality. But I did not shrink from reading this book by Bauermeister, because I knew from reading her previous book, The School of Essential Ingredients, that her sensuous prose and eye for the subtle vernacular of relationships would make a rewarding story. Indeed, I not only loved it, I wanted a sequel when I was done!
Feb 23, 2014 Camie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having survived a life threatening illness , Kate gathers a group of friends to celebrate, and when challenged to do something outside of her comfort zone, decides that she will do so if each of her friends will also take on an equally daunting challenge decided by her. I am the right demographic for this book, one I will more likely pass along to near same age friends than my daughters. A Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and written by the author of The School of Essential Ingredients, wh ...more
Gail Cohen
Sep 03, 2011 Gail Cohen rated it it was ok
The Jane Austen book club without JA
Jul 02, 2012 Debbie rated it it was amazing
My first book by this author and she had me hooked by the first chapter. I enjoyed reading about the women's lives and struggles and their friendships with each other. The fact that it was based in Seattle added to my enjoyment. The quote on the opening pages of the book was enough to intrigue me and ask myself the same question...a question that has not just one answer, but many depending on your stage of life. At one point my answer was to break free from my little home town and explore life.. ...more
Jul 06, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terrific book. I bought this one because I had read Bauermeister's The School of Essential Ingredients and had enjoyed it. What Bauermister excels at is relationships. For me that is what this book is about whether it's the relationships between a husband and wife (good and bad), sisters, mother's and daughters or those that are in the midst of dealing with a possibly terminal illness there was one relationship you could connect with. The story is about Kate, a cancer survivor and her friends wh ...more
Tara Chevrestt
Jul 09, 2011 Tara Chevrestt rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, 2011-release
When Kate, a cancer survivor is challenged to go rafting down the Grand Canyon to celebrate her victory over disease, she challenges her friends to their own adventures. They seem like mundane, everyday things, but to each women, the challenge is tough for their own reasons.

I feel the book pontificates too much.. Each woman is the highlight of the tale for say, twenty pages? So I don't need their entire life story. I also found it way too descriptive.

I liked the way Caroline stuck up to the aut
I received Erica Bauermeister’s second novel “Joy for Beginners” as an ARC from the publisher, and was delighted to find that it is, as the title itself offers, a sheer joy to read. Having read and loved her previous book, The School of Essential Ingredients, I had high hopes for this book and am delighted that it delivered.

In the prologue, Kate hosts a victory party for her six closest friends to celebrate her cancer survival, and tells them of a challenge by her daughter to do the one thing th
May 22, 2011 Courtney rated it it was amazing
I finished this book while I was waiting in my oncologist's office and I have to say the author nailed it! Joy for Beginners has all the right emotions and voice of the person who is going through cancer and those that are going through it with her as her friends and support. Cancer is scary - the diagnosis, the fight, the recovery, and the future. There is no normal anymore, not for the cancer survivor, their family, and their supporters. You can't go back, you have to learn how to start new fr ...more
Jul 22, 2011 Barb rated it really liked it
Recommended to Barb by: Joanna
Update: Loved this book especially Erica Bauermeister's style of writing. So beautifully lyrical at times that I would reread passages a couple times. A wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon! Naturally, I identified with Hadley and her tiny house, overgrown garden and a desperate need to be safe. These are women that I would love to spend a day with....each interesting in her own way. Since 2011 is slipping by and I haven't selected my 2 annual "best books" of the year...this one gets the ho ...more
May 18, 2016 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
The only thing about this book that was disappointing was that there was less food in it than in The School of Essential Ingredients. Ms. Bauermeister made up for that by including some excellent descriptions of the art and process of bread-baking.

This novel has another rather simple premise, and is again largely about a set of fully realized, relatable characters. A group of female friends come together at the beginning of the book to celebrate one’s triumph over cancer. This survivor, Kate, ha
Jun 21, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that reminds you why women are so special. We are insightful and brutally honest with our closest friends, however when it comes to doing that with ourselves, we fall short. We need our friends, I mean our real friends, to sometimes step in with suggestions or tough love to put us back on our path. To make ourselves better and happy. The people we were meant to be.

The main thread of this story is Kate who has survived cancer. Through her journey Kate has learned that l
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Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of the novel The School of Essential Ingredients and the upcoming novel Joy For Beginners (June 9, 2011). The School of Essential Ingredients is currently being published in 22 countries and Joy For Beginners was recently selected to be performed as part of the New Short Fiction Series in Los Angeles (June 12, 2011). Erica Bauermeister received a B.A. f ...more
More about Erica Bauermeister...

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“They said - Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up.” 29 likes
“I think love is kind of like those waves out there," she said. "You ride one in to the beach, and it's the most amazing thing you've ever felt. But at some point the water goes back out; it has to. And maybe you're lucky-maybe you're both too busy to do anything drastic. Maybe you're good as friends, so you stay. And then something happens-maybe it's something as big as a baby, or as small as him unloading the dishwasher-and the wave comes back in again. And it does that, over and over. I just think sometimes people forget to wait.” 28 likes
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