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Book Review: Joy for Beginners

Review Summary

Quite often, I review books that aren't "new." Joy for Beginners was published in 2011, but I'll put this into the "Book Serendipity"category (when I find and read a book by chance) as I found it at a local free little library and picked it up. I'm glad I did, because I needed a happy pick-me-up novel and this fit the bill.

I gave this one four stars as I reserve five-star books for something that truly blows me away, but this was an enjoyable read and well worth my time.

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Book Review: Joy for BeginnersJoy For Beginners by Erica Bauermeister
Published by Penguin on June 9, 2011
Genres: Fiction, Women, Family Life, General, Literary
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Audible, Kindle
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Publisher Synopsis:

From national bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick The Scent Keeper comes a beautifully crafted novel about daring to experience true joy, starting one small step at a time. Having survived a life-threatening illness, Kate celebrates by gathering with six close friends. At an intimate outdoor dinner on a warm September evening, the women challenge Kate to start her new lease on life by going white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon with her daughter. But Kate is reluctant to take the risk.
That is, until her friend Marion proposes a pact: if Kate will face the rapids, each woman will do one thing in the next year that scares her. Kate agrees, with one provision—she didn't get to choose her challenge, so she gets to choose theirs. Whether it's learning to let go of the past or getting a tattoo, each woman’s story interweaves with the others, forming a seamless portrait of the power of female friendships.
Joy for Beginners takes us on the emotional journeys of seven women seeking to transform their lives, and proves that sometimes what we really need to inspire us to change is a good, firm shove.”—Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain


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Joy for beginners begins when Kate, having survived cancer, has a party. Her group of female friends makes a pact to do something that scares them — and Kate gets to decide what that thing is. After all, it’s her cancer party.

Fortunately, Kate seems to have an intuitive knowledge of what might be not only scary but meaningful and growth-producing for each of these women. Usually, though, doing something that scares us is life-changing in ways small or large.

I won’t tell you what each woman’s challenge was — that would be spoilerish and you’ll have to read the book for that. But many of them were things I could connect to from having to let go of things to venturing out into the world.

In particular I enjoyed reading about Marion — probably because of the satisfaction of seeing someone begin something new in her 50s.

Erica Bauermeister is a Seattle author, and I love reading books set in my hometown. Frequently, without the author actually naming a place, I could identify where that character was and add detail to my imagined image of the scene.

It didn’t get five stars as I generally reserve that rating for something that truly blows me away. While I found it readable and enjoyable, I remained, firmly, in my chair. And this book falls, firmly, into the category of “chick lit.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with a little click lit. It’s satisfying to read a book about a positive, supportive, and mature group of female friends. I hope the next person who picked up this book (I’ll be passing Joy for Beginners along at another Free Little Library) enjoys it as much as I did.

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