Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

“At an intimate, festive dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate’s recovery from breast 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 whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon. But if she goes, each of them must promise to do one thing in the next year that is new or difficult or scary—and Kate get to choose their challenges.”

Caroline: “The bookstore where Caroline worked was a perfect example, designed as a place to linger as much as shop–incorporating a bakery and a cafe, a fireplace surrounded by oversized chairs for colder days and a patio outside for summer ones. It could have felt chaotic, a party full of strangers unable to introduce themselves, but instead was more like a genial conversation–the metallic clink of silverware set against the contented sigh of a book being slid from its shelf, the murmured comments of the knitting group seated at a round table in the three sided alcove that held . . the house/garden/cooking books.”
I wish I could own and operate a bookstore like the one where Caroline works.

Daria: “What was considered odd in elementary and junior high school became an asset on the dating circuit later in life. Men always loved the hummingbirds, weightless and colorful, so quick you could never catch them even if you wanted to. And her affinity for mud had turned into a profession in clay.”
Daria was hard to relate to: a hummingbird, yes, but also guarded and afraid to commit.

Sara: “Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up.”
Isn’t that a lovely quote? I need to have more fun so that my children will want to grow up.

Hadley: “Hadley didn’t mind the unruly nature of her garden. She was safe; there wasn’t a car in the world that could blast through that wall of green. She could feel the garden reaching out its arms to protect her.”
That one reminds me of The Secret Garden, but Hadley’s garden is a hiding place where she avoids the world in fear instead of a sanctuary from which she emerges to engage with the world.

Marion: On tattoos: “Irreversible decisions are good for the soul, word lady.”
Really? If you got a tattoo, what would it be? I remember when I was a teenager, and we were painting the wall of the youth room at our church. Lots of the kids wanted to put all sorts of trendy, cool catch-phrases and symbols on the wall, but our youth minister insisted we go to the Bible and paint something that was based on Scripture, something that would be of lasting significance. If a person gets a tattoo, it should surely be a word or symbol of lasting significance, something profound and meaningful. Mermaids are not meaningful.

Ava: “The new Ava swam in her rediscovered sense of smell with relief and joy, and it was all Kate could do to stop her from accosting people on the street and offering suggestions on how to improve their olfactory reality.”
What would be exciting enough for you to stop strangers on the street to tell them about it?

Kate: “She had been a river . . . the one they all told things to. Caroline, Daria, Marion, Sara, Hadley, Ava—it seemed that when they were around someone who might or might not be there the next year, they said things they wouldn’t otherwise, let out parts of themselves they might normally keep hidden. . . . She had been a river, the thing that took them close to death, made them suddenly, courageously, honest.”

This chic-lit novel told a good story, although a little bit too pyscho-babblish at times. Mostly I enjoyed getting to know Caroline, Daria, Marion, Sara, Hadley and Ava and getting to witness their life epiphanies.

3 thoughts on “Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

  1. I was a little worried about the “pyscho-babblishness” on this one and so I passed it up once. It was curious hearing a little more about it from you. I think I’d still ultimately take a pass though.

  2. Pingback: Preview of 2012 Book Lists #4 » Semicolon

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