Betty-Anne's Reviews > Joy for Beginners

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister
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Jul 26, 2011

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 that she fears most – white water rafting. Her friends make a pact with her to each do one thing that scares them if Kate does hers. Kate agrees, but only if she can choose each woman’s challenge.

From this point, the book separates into vignettes, each one focused on one of the women as they navigate their way through their individual challenge. In the process, you’re able to learn each woman’s story and immerse yourself in the character of the moment. Bauermeister allows each character her own space, but uses the thread of the friendship to keep the story connected and tie the entire book together in a satisfying way.

The writing is lush and vibrant, with the author seeming to dive headlong into writing each of the varying tasks/challenges with equal passion and intensity. It makes for an enticing read, so that you want to have it go on and on. I wasn’t surprised to find out that she herself had actually done some of the things she writes about the women doing for their challenges. She is also careful to leave each woman’s story at a point where it has reached a conclusion of sorts, but where you can still feel that there is so much more waiting for them in their lives.

Joy for Beginners is a satisfying read that says as much about the power of friendships as it does about living a full life and the satisfaction of taking a risk. Each of the characters learns much about themselves in the course of fulfilling their challenge. Additionally, I loved how much Kate really knew about her friends and how she discovered it all. This is also a great book for book clubs, as there are so many varied discussion points that arise from the story.
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