'Joy' a 4-star read for women

Joy for Beginners, by Erica Bauermeister; 978-0-399-15712-7; 288 pages; $24.95; Published June 9; Hardcover; Novel; G. P. Putnam's Sons.

Erica Bauermeister is the author of "The School of Essential Ingredients" and co-authored "500 Great Books by Women" and "Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2 - 14." Her second novel, "Joy for Beginners," is a moving story about friendship, overcoming fears, and a celebration of life.

After the main character, Kate, recovers from cancer, she plans a dinner party at her home. She invites five of her friends to thank them for all they had done for her during her illness. Kate and her friends make plans for each to accomplish a task that would challenge them. Kate promises her daughter she would go white-water-rafting down the Grand Canyon with her, but there is one condition - she would choose a task for each friend to be completed during the next year before her trip and they all agree. The scenarios go like this:

Caroline, a used book buyer and hostess for authors who come in for book signings, loves her job. She had been married for 25 years and is now divorced for 9 months.

After work, she sits in her living room reminiscing about the past and stares at the wall of books her husband left behind. Her task is simple but very effective for her.

Finally, she gathers boxes, removes them from the shelves, and packs them away.

Daria, a single woman who works at a pottery studio, finds that working with clay is exciting. Daria thinks she can create anything with clay.

Her task is to make homemade bread. Why does she need to prove she could bake?

Surprise! When introduced to her friend's brother who loves to bake, an intriguing relationship blooms.

Sara discovers adventure is to be her challenge. She is to travel alone to Venice! How is she going to do this while leaving a husband and three young children behind?

Hadley, a lonely, young widow married for only one year, purchases a house with money from her husband's life insurance policy. She often enjoys sitting on the couch, drinking tea and watching her garden get out of control. With help from her friends, they all clears the backyard. Amazing, beautiful flora and other vegetation is discovered.

An unkempt, overgrown garden is put to the test, creating comfort and beauty for Hadley and her group of friends to enjoy.

Marion is a journalist, married 33 years with children grown and gone. She often thought about getting a tattoo when she was a teenager, but dismissed the idea. Her challenge is to get a tattoo.

This is difficult because she only wants a special one that expresses her.

Ava's mother died of cancer when she was young. She was not there to support Kate during her recovery even though they are childhood friends. She attends the celebration dinner and acknowledges her fears by finishing a 3-mile walk for cancer.

Is Kate able to overcome her fears about white-water-rafting on the Colorado River? You will need to read this delightful story about the importance of friends helping each other. Challenges that are placed before them build their confidences and enriches their lives.

This is a well-written book that will be well received by the female audience. "Joy for Beginners" is highly recommended and deserves four stars.

Publishers Weekly

Best-Sellers

Week of June 13

Fiction

1. Dreams of Joy, by Lisa See

2. Dead Reckoning, by Charlaine Harris

3. 10th Anniversary, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

4. Buried Prey, by John Sandford

5. The Jefferson Key, by Steve Berry

Non-Fiction

1. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, by David McCullough

2. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, by Erik Larson

3. The Dukan Diet, by Dr. Pierre Dukan

4. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

5. The 17-Day Diet, by Dr. Mike Moreno

Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who is published in local newspapers and national book review lists. He is a member of the faculty of Mohave Community College in Kingman. Visit Clark Isaacs at http://clarkisaacs.ning.com.