Thursday, June 02, 2011

229 (2011 #34). Joy for Beginners

by Erica Bauermeister

Cancer-survivor Kate and her six best friends have gathered to celebrate her recovery.  Kate agrees to accept a challenge to go whitewater rafting (something she fears) with her daughter--IF each of her friends will accept a challenge of Kate's choosing.

So recently-divorced bookseller Caroline is assigned to clear out her ex-husband's books. Sara, a mother of twins plus one, must take a trip - alone. Single potter Daria must learn to bake bread (which puts her with Sara's brother Henry, who is a baker). Her older sister Marion, a journalist and soon to be a grandmother, has to get a tattoo - which leads to writing the fiction she's always wanted to try.  Young widow Hadley must take care of the overgrown garden that isolates her. Ava, a perfumer in Los Angeles whose memories of her own mother's fight with cancer made it hard for her to be there for Kate, has to do the breast cancer fund-raising walk.

Each woman has her own chapter (where we learn why each was assigned the particular challenge, and how they meet it), which makes this an easy read, perfect for summer (the book will be released June 9).  I especially enjoyed the evocative Seattle setting, as (resident) Bauermeister's descriptions reminded me of my home for 21 years.  I found something to relate to with nearly all of the characters' experiences.  Here's an example from Marion's chapter (page 185):

She had never felt the simple urgency of time more than in the past few years, as her ovaries creaked into silence...She had understood that something was ceasing within her and, more important, would never start again. The cold reality of it had struck her, as if, perched on the crest of a roller coaster, the rest of the ride was suddenly, irreversibly clear. On the way up, the vista had been infinite, the time to look about sometimes agonizingly long; now there was only the certain and dispassionate knowledge that there was one set of rails on which to travel, the ending immutable and about to begin. It didn't matter that the rest of the trip might take twenty, even thirty years to complete; the angle of the ride had changed.
Erica Bauermeister's writing takes advantage of all the senses, just as her characters' occupations do.  It's lovely.  I'd now like to read her other novel, The School of Essential Ingredients.  I'd definitely recommend this one.

© Amanda Pape - 2011

[This uncorrected proof was received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]


  1. This one sounds good! Like my kinds of book. If I ever get back into reading I would like to read this one!

  2. Yay! Will bring you the book today, Tracy!

  3. Amanda - I loved the Debbie Macomber books that were set in Seattle, about the knitting store. I don't know if I've emotionally healed enough to read this yet. The title does feel like something I have experienced in the last 3 years, when I meet with my friends at Gilda's. They have a book club there and it might be the right book for some of them to read. At least the cover doesn't have any stupid pink ribbons on it! The cover represents a part of life that is special to me and maybe why I take such joy in my yard. Thank you for posting about this book along with the others you offer in your blog.

  4. Kay - my gut feeling is that you would like this book. If you like, I can send it to you when Tracy is done.