This week I read Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.
The premise of the book sounded interesting: at a dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from breast cancer. At the party, Kate strikes a bargain with each of her friends. To celebrate her new lease on life, she'll do white-water rafting - something that has always terrified her. But if she goes, all of her friends must do something they always said they would never do - and Kate is going to choose their adventures.
I was hoping that there would be some truly adventurous challenges in Joy for Beginners. Instead, there were ones that were rather minor and, to me, not "high-adventure" or "high risk" as I anticipated.
For example, one of the friends (Caroline) was recently divorced. The challenge she received from Kate was to sort through her ex-husband's library and dispose of all the books he left behind. This action was to pave the way for a new life for Caroline.
Another friend, Daria, is directed to learn to make bread. Supposedly by doing this, it would help her move past the emotional damage done by her mother who was hypercritical.
Other challenges revolved around getting a tattoo, working in an overgrown garden, and doing a sixty-mile fundraising walk for breast cancer.
Conceptually, I like this idea of pushing oneself out of one's comfort zone to address fears and issues that are holding a person back. Perhaps the challenges don't have to be formidable ones that are high-risk or garner national or international attention. Maybe everything does come down to the little things that are hampering one's ability to live a fully joyful life.
Joy for Beginners is a book written primarily for women who like to read about inspirational stories about how other women can help one another transform their lives. Its message is a simple yet powerful one: if you take risks, you open yourself up to joy. Any personal obstacle you are facing is possible to overcome.
Perhaps that's the goal of the book: to help each reader think about something in her life that she needs to deal with in order to live more joyfully.
Overall, I like the premise of the book. However, I skimmed through some parts of the book that I simply couldn't identify with or - honestly - had no interest in the challenge since it wouldn't be something I would do.
It does give me pause for thought, though, about things that could potentially be holding me back and how I would overcome them. For that reason, I'm glad I read Joy for Beginners.