Monday, June 6, 2011

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister — 288 pgs

Joy For BeginnersIn this novel of vignettes, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate’s remission from breast cancer. As they gather for a wonderful night of shared conversation and good food, Kate levels a challenge to each of the women assembled. Each woman is going through a rough patch in her life and Kate’s task for each of them is designed to make them take stock of their life and help propel them forward from their static situations. Both lyrical and wise, Bauermeister’s second novel of stories touches on the resiliency and wonder of womanhood, and expounds on the remarkable journeys that each woman must take to become whole and sound.

One of the things I found unique about this book was the fact that it was a group of interconnected stories held together by tiny threads that reverberated throughout the shared narrative. It was a lot like Olive Kitteridge in this way, and each woman got the chance to have her moment in the spotlight and her eventual reckoning when it came to performing her task. Each woman was unique and all were at very different stages in their lives, but there was something about them that made them all seem familiar. I think it was easy for me to single out particular character traits from all the women and morph them into a semblance of who I was, which enabled me to sympathize with even the colder and more remote characters.

As each woman’s life is uncovered, they are all tasked with the kinds of things that will help them see life from another angle: whether striking out independently and doing something entirely for and by themselves, or pruning the solitude of their lives and making room for happiness in their hearts, or making an irreversible decision that one particular woman has been avoiding for years, Kate hits on the exact formula for each woman that will help them erase their bonds from the past and present and send them spiraling into a fresh and unknown future. Kate even sets a challenge for herself and finds herself reclaiming her life and diving into adventure after her remission from cancer. She, like all the other women, discovers that she can once again hold her future in her hands.

Bauermeister does a great job incorporating all sorts of elements into her story, and fans of her first book will be excited to hear that there are a lot of delicious foodie moments in this book as well. There are also some great passages about the love of books, and that, going hand in hand with the foodie portions, made me a very happy reader indeed. This book both delicately and resoundingly shares the viewpoints and experiences of women who are stuck in the everyday conundrums and difficulties that life forces on them, and in their struggles to complete their challenges and change their fates, each woman learns to become the center of her own joy and fulfillment. It was a heady message, and one that Bauermeister effortlessly crafts between each of her female leads and their plights. I thought there was a lot here that fully embodied the experiences of being a woman and that highlighted some of the difficulties and joys that reverberate through the lives of women everywhere. Bauermeister does a wonderful job of making these women realistic and sympathetic, and though there really isn’t a cogent narrative thread running throughout, there was never a lack of emotion, feeling or urgency to the story she tells. Each woman has her moment in the sun and steps forward, changed and renewed, giving Kate’s challenge meaning and portent.

Though I think I enjoyed The School of Essential Ingredients just a tad more than I did this book, I found the story to be very cleverly put together and liked what Bauermeister was able to create with this collage of women and women’s issues. It was a book that was easy to relate to, and I’m confident that each female reader will find her counterpart within these pages. A very melodious and comfortable read that had a lot to say about the realities of being a woman. Recommended.

Great news! The publisher of Joy for Beginners is offering one copy of the book to one lucky reader. If you’re interested in winning a copy for yourself, please fill out the form below and good luck! This contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only.

Author Photo About the Author
Erica Bauermeister is the author of the national bestseller The School of Essential Ingredients. She lives in Seattle with her family.

Connect with Erica on her website and on her Facebook page.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Monday, June 6th:Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, June 7th:Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, June 8th:Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Thursday, June 9th:Jenny Loves to Read
Friday, June 10th:Amusing Reviews
Monday, June 13th:Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, June 14th:2 Kids and Tired
Wednesday, June 15th:Books and Movies
Thursday, June 16th:Joyfully Retired
Friday, June 17th:Redlady’s Reading Room
Monday, June 20th:Luxury Reading
Tuesday, June 21st:Teresa’s Reading Corner
Wednesday, June 22nd:Rundpinne
Thursday, June 23rd:Lit and Life
Friday, June 24th:Lori’s Reading Corner
Monday, June 27th:The Brain Lair
Tuesday,June 28th:Library of Clean Reads
Wednesday, June 29th:Life in Review
Thursday, June 30th:POOF…books.
Date TBD:Bookish Ruth

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.


bermudaonion said...

I love books about women and women's issues and it sounds like that's exactly what this book is. I loved The School of Essential Ingredients and I have a feeling I'll love this one too.

Vasilly said...

I'm with Kathy: books about women are always my favorite. I haven't read The School of Essential Ingredients yet though I did enjoy her non-fiction work, 500 Great Books by Women.

Bailey said...

Essential Ingredients wasn't my favorite, but I really enjoyed Joy for Beginners. I agree with you that it will likely connect with so many, and everyone will find someone with which to relate within the pages. Excellent review! You word things so well :)

Here's my review if you're interested!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I just started this tonight, so I'm not going to read your review yet, but I'll be back for sure when I finish, to see what I thought about it! (ha ha, pretending to kid but not really!)

Ana S. said...

"Interconnected stories" are like magical words for me - I tend to really love novels with that narrative structure. So: one more for the good old wishlist :P

Amy said...

I've been reading more and more books that have interconnecting stories so this sounds interesting. Thanks for the great review.

Maria D. said...

This book looks great! Loved your review....I do like books with foodie moments:)

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Oh I've really enjoyed books with interconnected stories, lately. I loved Olive Kitteridge so any similarity in writing style is a plus for me.

Jenners said...

It kind of almost sounds like a self-help book disguised as a novel. It sounds inspiring and instructional...and I mean that in the best sense.

Lisa said...

Had to skim over your review (I've got this one coming up) but I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it. Sounds like maybe a good book club selection.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed this one, Heather! I really liked it too - I especially loved how there were foodie moments here too; her descriptions are just so fantastic! My review will be up later this week. :)

Unknown said...

This book soundds absolutely tantalizing with its atoryline about female friendships and plenty of mentions of foods! I like the idea that there are a variety of interesting well-developed charactersin this book so that almost every reader will find someone to identify with! I always enjoy comparisons and contrasts between characters, too. Thank you for another captivating review.

I have you to read The School of Essential Ingredients but I have a copy here and hope to get to it soon - I better since Joy for Beginners sounds like a book I woul enjoy, as well!

Gwendolyn B. said...

I really like books of interconnected stories. I like the different perspectives and that each character is spotlighted. I also like the idea of these challenges that Kate proposes. I wonder what she would suggest for me . . .

Darlene said...

I just adored this book and truthfully I really liked both. This author really impresses me with the wonderful way she writes and i just find myself wanting to reread her books once I'm done. I hope we won't have to wait another few years for another book.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one! I've been meaning to read OLIVE KITTERIDGE for a long time now ... maybe I'll pick this one up right after that to see how they compare.

Thanks for being on the tour!

Tracy said...

Sounds like it would make a good choice for bookclub.

Marg said...

I have seen this author mentioned around the place, but never actually picked up one of her books. My library doesn't have this one yet, but I did request The School of Essential Ingredients. They also have another book by her so I might read that one if I enjoy the book I have already requested.

Melissa said...

Thanks for the review on this one. I loved Olive Kitteridge and will check this one out!

Swapna said...

I completely agree with your review - I did enjoy ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS a little more, but this book was still very well done.

Wendy said...

Heather - I have this one in the queue and am looking forward to it ;)

Unknown said...

I am hearing overwhelming applause for Joy for Beginners, I must add it to my list! Thank you for a great review - I hope it's not too late to enter the contest!

avisannschild said...

I've only heard great things about this book and I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the giveaway!

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