Monday, August 22, 2011

Joy For Beginners

I haven't said much about it here in the blogosphere, but I have been reading more this summer. This past weekend I finished this book:
From the book jacket:
   At an intimate, festive dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer.  Wineglass in hand, Kate strikes a bargain with them: to celebrate her new lease on life, she'll do the one thing that's always terrified her: white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon.  But if she goes, each of them must promise to do one thing in the next year that is new, or difficult, or scary - and Kate gets to choose their challenges.
   Shimmering with warmth, wit, and insight, Joy for Beginners is a celebration of life: unexpected, lyrical, and deeply satisfying. 

(If you click on the title above it will take you to the book's Amazon page.)

I really did enjoy this book a lot.  But then I usually do enjoy character driven novels, especially when the characters are friends.  There is just something about getting a sneak peek into the lives of women and their roles in friendships that draws me in...and oftentimes reveals new things about myself in the process. 

This was the second book in a row where the story is laid out through the eyes of one character at a time.  And as in the last book, The Imperfectionists (by Tom Rachman), the other characters become more multidimensional when you see how they interact with others rather than just through their own eyes.

I found myself drawn to the characters of Caroline and Marion the most.  I think my personality is a cross between the two of them, so it was like seeing myself through the eyes of someone else.  A little scary, really!

Here are my "Favorite Quotes" from Joy For Beginners:
" the currency of friendship, empathy is more valuable than accuracy."  -- the older I get the more I find this to be true.  Yes, as a friend I want you to speak the truth to me...but, PLEASE, season it with empathy and not judgment!

"Believe in the future and be kind to the past." -- I might need to tattoo that on my forearm so I can see it all the time!

"...Caroline realized with a sense of small quiet surprise that the roles in her well-stocked bookshelf of life were leaving, had left, one by one as they had come...There was an almost literary irony, she thought now, in how Jack had gone rampaging through his life this year, cleaning the shelves in one sweep, when the reality was they were already emptying, quietly and efficiently, on their own...He had jumped out of the cycle only to go back to the beginning, filling his hands again." -- oh how many times have we seen people short circuit the cycle only to find themselves right back at the beginning again?  And how many times has that person been me?!?!

"Darling girl, has anyone ever told you you need to grown down a little?" -- I'm not as bad as I used to be...but still, asking your friends to describe you in one word and having three out of four say 'serious' makes you think!

I would highly recommend this book.  It is one that I could relax with but not have to turn off my brain to enjoy.  If that makes sense to anyone else! 

As for the other books I have read since I finished A Homemade Life:
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman was equally as delicious as this one only set in a failing international newspaper's headquarters.  Each chapter was seen through the eyes of a different colleague.

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs was entertaining...though not wonderful.  I enjoyed it more than I did Friday Night Knitting Club, Jacobs first book which was released a few years back...but it was a little too bland for me.  I guess I just never connected with the characters the way I thought I should.

Canary Island Song by Robin Jones Gunn.  I think I had too high of expectations for this one.  Gardenias For Breakfast is one of my all time favorite novels and I was hoping that this one would be as well.  I guess island life is just a little too far fetched for me.  I love novels set in the south about Southern women, so Gardenias touched me deeply. 

So, it will be of no big surprise to tell you that last night I started my 'classic' novel for the year...To Kill A Mockingbird.  It doesn't get much more Southern than that.  I can even hear the drawl in my head as I read...and it sounds a lot like me!

Until next time!

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