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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joy for Beginners

Joy for Beginners
Erica Bauermeister
Putnam, 2011

When Kate was ill with cancer, six women joined forces to help her in various ways as she underwent surgery and treatment. When she was given a clean bill of health, she invited the women for dinner, where she shared her fears about a river rafting trip through the Grand Canyon with her daughter. When the group urged her to go despite her misgivings, Kate issued each of them a challenge: if she does the one thing that has always terrified her, each of them will also do one that that they would find difficult. Even though some of the tasks seem slight, easy or inconsequential, Kate’s wisdom in the assignments become apparent as each woman attempts to do the one thing that, it turns out, proves to be the most difficult.

Each chapter is each woman’s story of doing the assigned task. They range from the simplest (learning to bake bread) to the most difficult (taking a trip overseas). As each woman attempts to do what Kate has asked, they learn something of themselves that enables them to move past whatever event or situation has stopped them from learning and growing as human beings. Kate herself goes on the river trip with her daughter, and finds the experience to be even more life-changing than the cancer was.

Some might think this novel to be overly sentimental and simplistic, but it actually proved to me to be uplifting and refreshing. It is not dreary or sad, as many cancer stories are. Instead, it shows the power and rewarding benefits of friendship among women. Who else but a close friend can see us as we really are, and in fact, confront us about our own issues in a loving and accepting way? This book will remind you to call your best friend and have a good chat about things that aren’t really important, or things that are, just because you can. And if you can’t – it will make you miss her with all your heart even more than you did before.


Other novels by this author:
The School of Essential Ingredients (2009)

Other titles you may also enjoy:

Talk before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg (1994)
Ann Stanley, an unhappily married nurse, narrates this story of Ruth Thomas, a woman dying from cancer who has left her husband, even though it means leaving her son, too.

Always and Forever by Kathy Kelly (2007)
Their satisfying lives compromised by such challenges as career changes, parenting responsibilities, and difficult relationships with men, three Irish women gather at a spa and receive assistance from a fourth woman who helps them to rethink their priorities.

Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons (1993)
Looking back on her ninety years of life while waiting for the arrival of her children and grandchildren at the family summer home, Maude Chambliss recalls a life of wealth, friendship, love, and loss.

1 comment:

  1. I listened to this book on audio book when I was traveling to and from work recently. There were times I had to just not listen because the story was so intense, and so REAL. Great book!