Title: Joy for Beginners
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Release Date: June 9, 2011
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
When Kate is declared cancer-free, she has a dinner party for her closest friends where they all toast to life and happiness. Then Kate reveals to her friends that she has agreed to do something that has always terrified her to the core- she is going white water rafting in the Grand Canyon with her daughter. In celebration of her remission, Kate asks each of her friends to do one difficult thing as well, with one caveat – Kate gets to pick what that thing is.
In Joy for Beginners, Erica Bauermeister once again accomplishes what she did so well in The School for Essential Ingredients: fully developing multiple different characters and making the reader care about them in just a few pages. Joy for Beginners is told from multiple points of view – it starts and ends with Kate, but in between, each woman tackles that difficult thing that Kate has asked them to do. I usually don’t love books where there are too many narrators because the reader doesn’t have time to connect with individual characters, but somehow this isn’t a problem for Bauermeister. Her characters are so real, so open and naked with the reader, that each one lingers in my mind. I only had a few pages to connect with each of these women, but it was enough.
Joy for Beginners is simple and beautiful, a celebration of life in all its beauty and wonder. These women are in very different places, but they have one thing in common: their lives are changed by what Kate asks them to do. And to be fair, she doesn’t ask anything that seems too difficult on the surface. Bake a loaf of bread, tend a garden, do a breast cancer walk – these are simple requests. But somehow Kate knows what each of her friends need, and what the catalyst is to make them see that as well. It’s a wonderful tribute to the power of friendship and would make a perfect gift for a female friend.
This was a fun, inspiring novel that is easy to read in one sitting. Its size is deceptive; there is a lot of heart packed into these pages, and after you read it, you’ll come away with a gooey warmth in your core. Erica Bauermeister is a very talented novelist, and fans of women’s fiction should definitely consider picking this book up.