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JOY FOR BEGINNERS by Erica Bauermeister


by Erica Bauermeister

Pub Date: June 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-15712-7
Publisher: Putnam

A soft-centered celebration of female friendship and endurance follows a group of women facing challenges set by a cancer-survivor.

It’s the back stories to the six caring women who supported breast-cancer sufferer Kate through her illness and treatment which form the core of Bauermeister’s novel (The School of Essential Ingredients, 2009). After Kate accepts her daughter’s challenge to go rafting down the Grand Canyon to celebrate being alive, each of the six agrees to do something scary or difficult, with Kate setting the tasks. Divorced bookstore worker Caroline must finally throw out her ex-husband’s books, thereby reclaiming her life as well as her shelf space. Potter Daria must bake a loaf of bread, thereby embarking on a love affair. Sara, who has never spent a night apart from her children, must travel, while young widow Hadley, who has retreated to a tiny new home hidden in a green jungle, is tasked with taking care of her garden. Bauermeister’s sensuous writing lends her slender, rather sugary (even when sad) material a graceful charm, but the material is never substantial enough, with the character vignettes too short and the liberating outcomes too heartwarmingly predictable.

Toothless. A neatly crafted reworking of a cozy, sentimental formula.