Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister
Published by Putnam Adult, an imprint of Penguin
Review copy provided by the author
At a small dinner party, six women gather together to celebrate the fact that their friend Kate’s cancer is in remission. While rejoicing in her recovery, Kate decides to do the one thing she’s always been terrified of: white-water rafting. But she comes up with an idea for the rest of the women, too – each of them must do something they’ve sworn never to do, with Kate deciding what adventure each woman will embark upon.
I loved Erica Bauermeister’s debut, The School of Essential Ingredients, so when I found out she had another book coming out, I jumped at the opportunity to read it. Just as I was expecting, Joy for Beginners is a wonderful read with tons of heart and excellent, true-to-life characters.
The format of the book was difficult to get used to at first, but I ended up feeling like it was the perfect way to construct this story. Basically, each chapter is the story of one of the women, focusing on the adventure that Kate assigned to them and also allowing the reader to get to know each of these six women, one at a time. The fact that the chapters focused on the woman individually allowed me to really delve into these characters and get to know not only the dynamics of their friendships with Kate, but also about their stories too. Like I said, I didn’t know how I’d feel about the format at first, but once I got into the book I realized it was done perfectly.
Bauermeister writes incredibly lush, vivid descriptions of things, which is a characteristic of her writing I absolutely loved while reading The School of Essential Ingredients (food descriptions – YUM) and it also did wonders with this story. Not only does this book have great foodie bits too, but one of the four women actually travels to Italy, and Bauermeister’s writing really took that chapter to a whole new level. She truly brought Italy to life before my eyes, it was absolutely fantastic.
I’m not sure what else to say about Joy for Beginners other than I really, really enjoyed it and it was truly a pleasure to read. This is a beautiful novel about challenging oneself to do something outside of the box, about how powerful that can be. I definitely would recommend this one.