Book Review: Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

I’ve already told numerous people in person about this book, so I may as well start off by telling you that I really liked this book. I think you should read it too because if you don’t, you’ll be sorry and wish you had. So first, let me tell you about the story.

Joy for Beginners is about a small group of women first came together to help Sara. She was the mother of a young boy and newborn twins and she had her hands full. They came together as a baby-holding group to give Sara some relief. Then Kate was diagnosed with breast cancer and the group shifted their priorities to support Kate.

As the book opens, it’s eighteen months later and Kate has been pronounced cancer-free. They’ve gathered together at Kate’s house for a victory celebration.Kate’s daughter has been encouraging Kate to sign up for a white-water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon but Kate is terrified of the idea.

All the women urge her to do it by agreeing to do something that terrifies them or something they’ve been putting off. Kate agrees but on one condition: She gets to choose what their challenge is. With some trepidation, the women agree. Let me introduce you to the women and what their challenges are:

  • Caroline’s husband left her after twenty-five years of marriage. She’s been floundering around ever since. The only thing that saves her is her love of books. She works in a bookstore and is responsible for evaluating and buying the used books people bring in. Her challenge? Get rid of all of her husband’s books. Hint: There are a lot of them and it’s not easy.
  • Daria is an artist, specifically a sculptor. She’s loved working with mud/clay her entire life. Someone had given her an Amish Friendship Bread last year, and it was a disaster. Her challenge is to learn to bake bread. Hint: There’s a big difference between a ball of dough and a ball of clay.
  • Sara is the young mother I mentioned earlier who needed help with her twins. She’s the ultimate mother, one who truly loves everything about the experience. On the other hand, she’s been absorbed in the lives of her family 24/7 for years without even a night away from them. Her challenge? Take a trip by herself. Hint: It’s hard to take care of only yourself.
  • Hadley and her husband were married barely a year when he was killed in an auto accident. Hadley took the insurance money and bought a very small house surrounded by overgrown ivy, roses and other plants. Strange as it may sound, this made her feel secure. Her challenge? Build a garden. Hint: What happens when you start chopping out some of those plants?
  • Marion has three grown children and a good, solid marriage of thirty-three years. She’s also a journalist. I was surprised when I heard her challenge: Get a tattoo. Hint: A tattoo expert tells Marion, “The irreversible decisions are good for the soul.”
  • Ava is the only one of the women who wasn’t part of Kate’s support group. The other women resent her somewhat ,but she’s a lifelong friend of Kate’s. The challenge Kate gives her? She has to walk a three-day, sixty mile breast cancer walk.

How the women handle their challenges, including Kate’s rafting trip is what the stories are all about. This is such an in-depth look at the personalities that I swear they are real people. I thought each of the women’s stories could have been expanded into a book of their own.

Joy is a concept I’ve thought a lot about, as you have probably guessed from the title of my blog. Joy is a lot more than being happy. As I staryted reading Joy for Beginners I wanted to see how the title would fit with my experience of joy and the stories of the women in the book. Will the challenges Kate gives the characters help them break throughj to a new understandimng of joy? Will it have the opposite effect? Read the book and tell me what you think.

So many people loved Erica Bauermeister’s first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients, that this one is going to be very popular. I expect to see it on the best seller lists. Check your local library or local bookseller. It’s also available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.) Another way to get this book is via . . .


Tell me in the comments section of your interest in the book. I have one copy (US/Canada only) and will leave it open untilĀ June 23rd.

Thanks so much to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for my review copy. For more stops on the book tour, visit the schedule HERE.

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16 Responses to Book Review: Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

  1. Tea says:

    I like the title of the book. I really enjoyed the idea of a baby holding group. Of course, the challenges are interesting too. Glad you enjoyed it. Can you imagine a man leaving you after 25 years??? I can’t. I would feel really lost. I’ve been married for 38 years. I’ve got a mind to shake him out of his sleep and say, “are you planning on leaving me?”::))

  2. Kay says:

    I just finished reading this book and I loved it. I think every woman should read this as I think there are aspects or a character that would resonate with almost anyone. I read a review somewhere that said this was like a femal bucket list, but it’s not. It’s about discovering your joy, I think, and I have maintained for several years now that joy appears in unexpected places. And you don’t have to be totally happy or have a perfect life to find joy. It’s not about that. Right? No need to enter me in the giveaway. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Margot.

  3. JoAnn says:

    Great review, Margot! I’m definitely going to read this one, but will probably listen. The audio of School of Essential Ingredients was wonderful.

  4. I don’t need a copy since I already have one, but great review! I liked all the challenges except the one for Marion – I thought that was a little TOO imposing of Kate!

  5. I love it when I can say “just read this – you’re going to love it!” I’m so glad this was that kind of book for you. I hope you do get lots of people to give it a shot – it sounds like it is really a wonderful read.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  6. Annie says:

    Sounds like a great book and it seems you are not the only fan. We all can use a little help putting the joy into our lives. Think I have to check this one out. Sounds like interesting characters as well.

  7. Dianne says:

    Looks like a good book for a summer day at the beach.

  8. I’ve heard really good things about this book and about Erica’s previous book, but haven’t managed to read either yet. Plus I like the idea of challenging oneself to step beyond one’s comfort level and try new things. Please enter me in the giveaway!


  9. I’m anxious to read this and hope to get to it soon. Count me as one of those who loved The School of Essential Ingredients.

  10. Susan says:

    I love reading stories about how women are there for each other. This is a book that I have been wanting to read. Thanks for the giveaway!

  11. kaye says:

    that does sound like a good one. I’ll put a star on it.

  12. Staci says:

    This one has my name all over it!! I must read it as I ADORED Essential Ingredients!!!

  13. Erin says:

    I would love to win a copy! I am so excited to read this one. The premise makes it irresistible to me–it sounds like it has the potential to be wonderful. Plus, I’m reading good reviews, which is always encouraging!

  14. Dianne says:

    Sounds like a good read and has received good reviews. Would love to win this book to read during our week at the beach

  15. Annie says:

    I like very much your review , Margot. This book seems so interesting ! I like the idea of a challenge for oneself when you need a little push to go ahead !

  16. Pingback: Life in Review: “Joy for Beginners” by Erica Bauermeister + Giveaway! « Life In Review

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