Gathering to celebrate their friend Kate's triumph over cancer, six women each agree to take on a life challenge--chosen by Kate. In return, she agrees to go whitewater rafting with her daughter, though the idea has always terrified her. Bauermeister delves deeply into each woman's story, letting readers walk alongside Caroline, Daria, Sara, Hadley, Marion and Ava as they learn to bake bread, travel without their children, tend a long-overgrown garden and face the truths of their lives--empty nesting, broken marriages, a deep longing for home. Although Kate was the one fighting a deadly disease, her friends have their own demons to conquer--and each woman's test fits her perfectly, drawing out long-buried reserves of adventure, creativity, bravery and love.
The book brims with the evocative sensory details (and love of good food) that won readers over in Bauermeister's debut, The School of Essential Ingredients. Although each character appears in the first chapter, the author develops their stories slowly, with care, revealing details to illuminate how apt and yet how difficult each woman's challenge is for her. And when Kate finally gets her turn, the joy of the book's title is waiting for her, springing up as she plunges into an adventure both frightening and exhilarating.
Deeply moving and quietly insightful, Joy for Beginners will inspire readers to tackle their own challenges--and to celebrate the beauty of deep friendships, good food, well-tended gardens and other daily pleasures that make life worth living. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams