Reading List: Joy for Beginners

I am reading Erica Bauermeister’s novel, Joy for Beginngers. It’s wonderful.

Chapter by chapter, the book shares how the women who cared for their friend Kate through a life-threatening illness accept the challenges she gives to each of them when they join her for a dinner celebrating her survival.

Kate challenges one friend to learn how to make bread, another (a mother of three young children) must take a vacation on her own, one must do the 3-day Breast Cancer walk, the list goes on.

As these women face the challenges we learn more about their lives and see how accepting the challenge helps them move forward through life experiences. I find myself contemplating wanting to embrace the same tasks they are assigned — looking at how I can work in our garden this summer, considering baking some bread, getting a tattoo (no, not that one…sorry!), oh and don’t forget: traveling to Venice.

As a writer I like the book’s structure. Each chapter is dedicated to one woman’s story — we find out how she’s connected to Kate (the main character who survives the illness), we learn about the secondary character’s life, her sorrows, and witness her transformation into joy through the individual challenge that Kate assigns. I ‘m curious if some of the loose ends will be wrapped up in the last chapter (e.g., one of these vignettes ends with Sara calling her father from Venice to say, “I have a new idea.”). While I’m quite curious, the wrap-up also isn’t necessary. Each chapter stands nicely as it is.

It’s just a lovely, lovely book. I’m on the final chapter and, as is the sign with any good book, I’m dreading finishing it. I will miss these women.

I was inspired by the ABOUT page on Erica’s website. (A true sign that I’m enjoying a book…I start searching for everything I can about the author. And I’m clearly on a first name basis with her.) Anyway, I appreciated what she said about her experience as a mother who writes:

Yes, in a logistical sense, children can make writing difficult. In fact, I don’t think it is at all coincidental that my first novel was published after both my children were in college. But I think differently, I create the work I do, because I have had children.


(And now I’m off the hook if I don’t publish a novel for another 14 years.)

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2 Responses to Reading List: Joy for Beginners

  1. Thank you for a lovely review! And no, don’t wait 14 years to write your book…. A book is lovely company in your head when the children are small. Just don’t kick yourself if it takes some time.

  2. Liz says:

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Erica. (And thanks for writing an amazing book!)

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