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A Year by the Sea

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  7,644 ratings  ·  793 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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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  7,644 ratings  ·  793 reviews

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Jan 15, 2009 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
Jan 03, 2016 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
Apr 19, 2009 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
Julie Ehlers
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
I thought it was really interesting the way she drank every night. Even when she had to get a new boiler for her house and thus was really short on cash, she still always bought wine and drank it every night. She was living alone for the first time in decades and trying to figure out how to be her own person again, but she drank every night. I thought it was a bit counterproductive.

Anyway, I really wish I could reproduce all my marginalia here so you could understand how ridiculous I thought thi
Sally G.
Jul 23, 2012 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
Jan 26, 2010 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 17, 2011 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
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Book about how she and her husband have loss their connection over the years. She chooses to take a year off rom her marriage and goes to their home on Cape Cod. She rediscovers herself and in the process the relationship is rekindled. I love the descriptions of the location and the people she meets. Is is a simple life...what I am searching for. I know it is easy for women to lose themselves while being or trying to be everything for others. I plan to read her other books. This is a book I will ...more
Bree Hill
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don’t like rating memoirs..but I L O V E D this book.
Jan 11, 2012 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
Oct 30, 2009 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
Sep 05, 2013 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
Ginger Bensman
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
There were times while I was reading this book that I wasn't sure I wanted to continue --luckily, for me, I got to the part where she strikes up a friendship with Joan Erickson--very advanced in age and full of wisdom to share. It was then, that Joan Anderson begins asking insightful questions about herself and her relationships. ...more
May 17, 2009 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
Aug 12, 2007 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
After reading a number of reviews of this book here on Goodreads, I have come to the conclusion that either you will love it or you will hate it. I think which reaction you will have depends a great deal on how old you are and what your life experience is currently like. If you are age forty or under, or if you have never been married, it is possible this is not the book for you - at this time. If you are fifty or over, and if you've been married for a number of years, I think you might find it ...more
Victoria Anderson
Aug 10, 2016 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
Jan 17, 2009 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
Cyrus Carter
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very good memoir by a woman coming of age at 50. She speaks not only to women who may want to explore after doing their societal duty but she spoke to me as a man who understands that life and meaning and becoming a person is forever a process. Within the book are characters who help her in her move forward; I particularly liked the older friend, also a Joan whose remarks show a life well lived. Among them was one about the only way of keeping one’s senses alive is to use them.
I read this on a
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
"Going home or to a place that feels like home evokes an unmistakable aura of settledness."

It's been a long time since a book captured me as completely as this one did. I randomly found it on a shelf at a thrift store, and since I needed something to read I went ahead and purchased it. I have so many passages in this book underlined it's ridiculous.

Maybe it's because I'm a middle aged woman. Maybe it's because I'm currently experiencing a sense of drifting. Most likely it's a combination of thi
Smitha Murthy
A strange and unusual book that was the result of an extravagant foray in the second-hand bookstore. ‘A Year By The Sea’ is one woman’s sabbatical on an island by the sea. A sabbatical spent bathing with seals, digging up clams, and hoping that the plumbing and heating work.

When her marriage seems to be falling apart, Joan Anderson does what we would all like to do - take off to a cute cottage and reminiscence by the beach. If it were just that, I would have probably written something about ‘wh
Oct 25, 2009 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
Apr 01, 2011 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 01, 2007 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 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
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I knew I had to read this after someone very close to me told me this was her favorite book. I can definitely see why, and I'd say it's a must-read for women of a certain age. There are many great insights, and several passages I felt compelled to underline (if I did that). ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-like
I did not enjoy this book. It was over thought and over written. I wish I had the kind of time the author had to "find" herself. ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf_17
Long and laborious to read. A bit selfish and haughty, under the guise of being humble. I skimmed most of it.
Cindy Richard
Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a quick but informative read about a woman recovering her sense of self after being consumed by the roles of wife and mother for many years. She chooses to retreat to her family’s cottage in Cape Cod while her husband moves out west to start a new job. She tries out some new roles - like working in a fish market and clamming- both of which are very different from her usual profession as a children’s book author. Along the way, she meets some interesting people and engages in a lot of ref ...more
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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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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
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