The main character in JOY FOR BEGINNERS is Kate, a woman who has been through a mastectomy and subsequent treatment for breast cancer. In the opening chapter of JOY, Kate and six of her closest friends, women who have cared for her during treatment, are having a victory party, celebrating Kate's return to health. Shortly before the party, Kate's college-aged daughter, Robin, has asked her to consider a river rafting trip down the Grand Canyon and hung the pamphlet on the bulletin board in the kitchen. Kate's friends encourage her to go on the trip. Kate agrees that she will, but only if each of her friends will take on a challenge during the next year. The biggest twist is that Kate will decide what each challenge will be.
Bauermeister has come to be a new favorite author. She goes into a "category" with Elizabeth Berg and Anna Quindlen. Those authors write simple clean stories that I can read at football practices or waiting rooms. Even though the stories are relatively straightforward, there are lots of big truths, great lines that I write down or mark to share with friends. I loved this story about women and friendship and taking on challenges. I want my book club to read it. I want us to think about challenges we might set for each other. Maybe even set a few…And like Quindlen and Berg, Bauermeister is a terrific writer, a master of specificity and sensory details, someone I revisit again and again as I attempt to become a better writer.
As I was reading JOY FOR BEGINNERS, I also thought a lot about my reading process. I got my Kindle for Valentine's Day, and I'm still trying to figure out what place it has in my reading life. I had wanted one for a long, long time, but if I am honest, I have not really used it all that much. Here are some initial observations:
Things I love about my Kindle:
- The size.
- I can get a new book within a couple of minutes (this might also be a dangerous feature, given my propensity for buying books instead of food or clothing).
- I love that once I'm done with a book, it doesn't take up a lot of space in my life. I still have it on my Kindle, and I can go back to it any time I like, but I don't have to try to find room for it on my overflowing bookshelves.
- That ebooks, even new books, are much less expensive than "regular" books (and yeah, I'm aware that I don't have the right language).
Things I'm still trying to figure out:
- I can't pass on books I love, like JOY FOR BEGINNERS, to my friends. Last night, for example, I was telling my friend, Kathleen, how much I was enjoying Erica Bauermeister's books. She said she needed something new to read. Ordinarily, I would just pass the book on to her, but because it was on my Kindle, I couldn't. I don't like that, at all.
- I'm also not sure I will buy many children's books on the Kindle, because if I like them, I want to be able to put them into kids' hands. That's not a possibility with the Kindle, unless I give them my Kindle to use.
- I'm am thinking, though, about what place the Kindle might have in the lives of kids who struggle with reading. Would it make reading easier for those kids if they could adjust the type size or face, number of words on a line, or the orientation of the page? If so, why would we not give them that option?
- I'm also trying to decide whether buying ereaders for my sons might encourage them to read more than they are reading now (not at all).
- And then I'm still trying to figure out the "gadgetry"of the Kindle. I haven't figured out, for example, whether I can get the stuff I highlight from my Kindle to my laptop. And I haven't taken time yet to learn how to get stuff from my Netgalley account onto my Kindle, even though I am pretty sure I can do that.
OK, enough Joy (and Kindle) for beginners. Gotta go do some real life stuff, like laundry and housework!