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Joy for Beginners

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  6,341 ratings  ·  1,261 reviews
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 her: white-water rafting. But if she goes, all of them will also do something they always swore they'd never do-and K ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 9th 2011 by Putnam Adult (first published January 1st 2011)
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3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,341 ratings  ·  1,261 reviews

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Aug 09, 2011 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 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 18, 2013 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
Apr 30, 2011 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 08, 2015 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 04, 2012 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
Jul 11, 2011 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
Mar 17, 2011 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 02, 2011 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
May 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
I didn't find anything joyful about it.
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Jun 17, 2011 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-
Sep 21, 2011 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
Carol E.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Susan Robison
Feb 08, 2011 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
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
I am really surprised at all the rave reviews this one received. I found it a bit dull and slow. None of the characters were that interesting or compelling.
Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: light-fun, novels
Nice! Erica Bauermeister is a good-hearted author who deftly paints her characters, their challenges, charms and friendships, with warmth and grace. A light and lovely read.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars Loved the author’s writing, so touching! Just wished there were a few less characters to keep track of, but really good overall!
Dale Harcombe
Oct 04, 2013 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
Jun 14, 2011 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
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a heartwarming story of seven good friends and how their lives intertwine. The story begins when cancer-survivor Kate initiates a get-together with her friends. During the dinner one of her friends challenges Kate to a water rafting excursion. She agrees but only if she can choose a challenge for each of them. What the rest of the book deals with are how the women face their tasks and the history behind why Kate chose the challenge for each woman. I loved the way the author dedicated a c ...more
Mar 31, 2011 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
May 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary, feminist, local
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 10, 2011 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!
Izabella (Pages Full of Stars)
I didn't have any expectations but this book really surprised me in a good way :) I really liked the formatting - six separate stories that all come together in the end and are joined by one main character. I think that I liked Caroline's and Hadley's chapters most (I must admit I do have a thing for used bookshops and small houses with gardens, haha) but still, each character was different and interesting, and they all made for a warm and inspiring book. I'm happy that I finally picked it up an ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Couldn't quite go to 4 because a couple of the characters really annoyed me, but I am fully aware that this is likely because I couldn't relate to them at all.

Bauermeister's writing is lush, descriptive and quite emotive. It just pulls all the feels out of you. I think Ava's chapter was my favorite. I felt more connected to her character than any of the others and walked along with her the whole journey. Kate's rafting trip was pretty stereotypical but I enjoyed it anyway. Lots of li
Ellen Courtney
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
An actual 3.5 for me. I did the audio version. The narrator is very good and the storyline about the friendship and love between a group of female friends is well done. The writing was very descriptive and very sensory describing smells, tastes, sights, and sounds. At times I found these descriptions a bit too lengthy, but as a reader I truly felt I was there experiencing every scenario. Each character is given a challenge, not of their choosing, and the way they tackle and complete these challe ...more
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Cute story about the relationship between six women. They each choose to overcome a fear as a way to celebrate one friend who beat cancer.
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
Jul 05, 2013 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
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Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of four novels -- The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, The Lost Art of Mixing, and The Scent Keeper (coming in May, 2019 from St, Martin's ). Her memoir, House Lessons, will be published by Sasquatch in the spring of 2020. She is also the co-author of 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader's Guide and Let's Hear It For the Girls: 375 Grea ...more
“They said - Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up.” 32 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.” 30 likes
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