Book Review: Joy for Beginners

A few weekends ago when I tried to see The Help, it was sold out that day.  So, after some girl talk and wine we headed over to Watermark Books and Cafe.  I had no intention of buying a book.  But then I saw Joy for Beginners.

Side note:  I also got a Nutter Butter Blizzard that day!!  It was the August Blizzard flavor of the month.  I couldn’t pass that up!!  Sorry, if you wanted one since it’s September now!  Just consider it calories saved.  :)

Anyway, I knew that my Charlotte girls had recently read Joy for Beginners for their book club.  I often try to read the same book to be “in the know” with them still.  Until I was at the book store, I didn’t realize that it was the same author that also wrote The School of Essential Ingredients.


I LOVED The School of Essential Ingredients.  I read it in January while on a cruise to the Bahamas.  While reading this book, I seriously started thinking about starting my little food blog.  So, I have a soft spot for The School of Essential Ingredients.

Needless to say, I jumped right on getting Joy for Beginners.


And it’s a signed copy.  Nice!  Too bad it’s not signed:  To Julie, love the blog, keep it up. — Erica

Ha, I can dream.  :)

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

Joy for Beginners is the story of seven friends.  They have joined one night for a dinner party to celebrate Kate’s recovery from cancer.  With Kate’s new lease on life, there is talk of new experiences and living life to the fullest.  Kate’s daughter has asked her to take a white water rafting trip with her.  Kate is terrified, but her friends encourage her.  Kate agrees only if each of her 6 friends also agree to do their own adventure.  But Kate gets to pick their adventures (some are just tasks), since Kate didn’t get to pick her own.

The setup of the book is that the prologue covers what I just described.  Then each chapter follows one of the seven friends through their adventure.  It also covers their back story and why Kate choose that “adventure” for each friend.  Some of the friends are related or neighbors, so even though each chapter covers a different person, the characters are co-mingled.

This writing style for Erica Bauermeister was the same for The School of Essential Ingredients.  In that book, each chapter tells you the story of one of the students in a cooking class.  She tries to bring the stories together a bit, so it doesn’t read like short stories.  Just a very different style from a typical novel.

A highlight of some of the “adventures” (tasks):

Caroline:  a divorcee that is tasked with getting rid of all her ex-husband’s books

Daria:  tasked with baking bread

Sara:  has to take a trip by herself

Hadley:  needs to finally take care of her overgrown garden.
One part that spoke to me in the Hadley chapter:
“She said, “You can be broken, or broken open.  The choice is yours.”  (Let that marinate in your mind for a bit.  :) )

Marion:  has to get a tattoo

Ava:  has to do the 3 day Avon Breast cancer walk  (Hellooooooooo, if I had to walk for 60 miles and my friend just had to bake some bread, I’d be pissed!!!)

The last chapter, of course, follows Kate on her white water rafting trip.

I really enjoyed this book!!!  It’s very touching and peaceful.  If you’ve read and enjoyed Kate JacobsFriday Night Knitting Club and/or Comfort Food, then you’ll enjoy Erica Bauermeister.

Joy for Beginners:  4.5 stars out of 5 stars