Joy for Beginners

May 31, 2011

I slipped into this inviting novel like a warm bath.  It’s soothing and sensual, comforting and relaxing.  There’s no psycho behind the shower curtain either – if you are looking for a reading experience that is the equivalent of a good long soak, and are willing to shed some tears and giggle a bit as you rejuvenate yourself, this could be the perfect way to begin summer.

Erica Bauermeister’s comforting, languid, wise novel begins at a dinner party for Kate. She has just recovered from cancer and is gathering her women friends to thank them for their care and concern during her treatment. Three of the six are middle aged and the other three are younger; most are mothers. At the end of the evening, Sybil-like, she sets each one of her friends a task or challenge, seemingly simple (clean out an ex-husband’s bookshelf, learn to bake bread) but each woman’s quest opens up unexpected doors in her life.

Never mind how these women manage to cook great meals, accomplish interesting things and have loads of time for one another – that’s part of the fantasy that will make you long to move to Seattle, the setting for this and Bauermiester’s first book, The School of Essential Ingredients. These women (and a couple of conveniently arriving men) are just so damn evolved, their landscapes so lush, their ingredients so well chosen, their lives relatively uncomplicated. Each chapter, concerning each woman, is a paean to food and travel, good company, close family and committed, supportive friendships. It’s how I’d like to spend my summer vacation (or my life): soaking in the delights of great friends and new horizons, health and happiness.

Joy for Beginners, by Erica Bauermeister; hardcover $24.95, available at Flintridge Bookstore, Vroman’s and other local booksellers.

Bauermeister will speak and sign books at Vroman’s on Saturday, June 11 at 5:00 p.m.



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