Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joy For Beginners - Erica Bauermeister

In 2009, I accidentally stumbled upon Erica Bauermeister's "School of Essential Ingredients" on audio.  Nothing could have prepared me for the delight, THE JOY, of that book.  It left two distinct impressions with me when I finished it...the author knows food and the sensual art of cooking, and she knows the heart of a woman.

Now she is back again with more joy, both for beginners and her repeat customers.  I was resolute in my mission to wait for the audio.  But I saw this book at the Borders close-out sale, and I grabbed it.  I couldn't resist.  I needed some joy in my holiday season.

Synopsis:  Kate has just emerged from years of battling breast cancer, victorious and ready to embrace life again.  Her daughter has challenged her to take a white-water rafting tour in the Grand Canyon...something that is WAY outside Kate's comfort zone.  At an intimate dinner party with her five best girlfriends, Kate agrees to face her fear...IF the other five women agree to face their own fears by accepting a mission of Kate's choosing.

So we get to know each woman, and the struggles they have been through.  Motherhood, divorce, widowhood, alienation from family, as well as watching their friend fend off death.  They all have baggage, and Kate knows just the thing to help them heal.  Whether it be getting rid of an ex-husband's books, baking bread, or getting a tattoo, the women each go through a period of rediscovery and rebuilding.

My thoughts:  Well, that little statement I made about the food and the heart of a woman?  Ms. Bauermeister has done it again.  She is witty and warm; she makes my heart soar.  She gets it.    

When she talks about kneading and baking bread, I felt almost intoxicated:

Daria lay next to Henry in his bed, inhaling the smell of baking bread that filled the house, the man beside her.  Warm sugar, fields in the summer, the slight sharpness of wine.  She wondered if anyone had ever made a perfume that was the essence of bread, but even then, how could you get it to cover one person so evenly, to sink into hair, hands, the warm expanse of a chest?
Or what it feels like to be firmly implanted in middle age:

The cold reality of it had struck her, as if, perched on the crest of a roller coaster, the rest of the ride was suddenly, irreversibly clear.  On the way up, the vista had been infinite, the time to look about sometimes agonizingly long; now there was only the certain and dispassionate knowledge that there was one set of rails on which to travel, the ending immutable and about to begin.  It didn't matter that the rest of the trip might take twenty, even thirty years to complete; the angle of the ride had changed.
But probably the very best scene of the book is when Kate, after kicking those rapids to the curb, "leaned over, kissed Robin's cheek and leaped off the rock, a howl of joy flying in the air".  It makes me cry just typing it. 

If you are in the mood for a celebration of life, women and bread, you must give yourself the gift of sinking into this book.  Trust me, you will thank me.

5 out of 5 stars

22 comments:

Jenny said...

This sounds fun and heart warming and maybe a little inspirational!

Kay said...

I truly loved this book. Maybe not everyone will, but it spoke to me on many levels.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love Bauermeister's writing but I have to say I wouldn't go white water rafting just because my friends told me to!

Julie P. said...

Your review does the book justice. I adored this one too!

Anna said...

I can't wait to read this book! I absolutely loved The School of Essential Ingredients.

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book and The School of Essential Ingredients too. We need to meet Erica Bauermeister so we can gush over her!!

Zibilee said...

I loved both of these books, and think that Bauermeister has her finger on the pulse of what it's like to be inside a woman's heart and mind. I think I may have liked Essential Ingredients a tad more than this one, but that's only because I am a foodie, and those recipes and descriptions were just wonderful. But this book was beautiful too, and made me very emotional towards the end. Glad that you loved it so much, and fantastic review today!

Ti said...

If you were to look at my reading list, her books would not fit my reading profile but I LOVED "School" and I won a copy of this one so I can't wait to get to it.

Cozy, warm and thought provoking at the same time?? Winner!

caite said...

I read this, but never wrote the review.
Maybe because while I liked it, I did not LOVE it like I did her first book. Some of the stories were great..I am thinking Venice...but a couple were just Ok for me.

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

This sounds very good but not sure I could face my fears for anyone. I have an enormous fear of heights! I see someone bungie jumping and I instantly panic! That commercial where the woman is standing on top of the rock sends me into sweats. Still it could make for some very interesting reading. I picked this up when Borders closed and will definitely have to get to it. Your review has me convinced!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I'm pulling School of Essential Ingredients off the TBR right now so I can read it and order the new one :)

farmlanebooks said...

I enjoyed Essential Ingredients and am currently going through a bread obsession - baking it several times a week. It sounds as though this has my name written all over it.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I totally agree. I heart Erica Bauermeister. :)

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Erica is absolutely delightful!

Darlene said...

I so love her books! Reading your review today makes me want to reread both of her books.

Carrie K. said...

Bauermeister has become one of my must-read authors after the excellence of her first two books - I adored them both.

softdrink said...

The author is witty and warm in person, too. I was lucky enough to hear her speak last year...and now I'll read whatever she publishes.

Jenners said...

Everyone just loves this book. I shall have to give it a listen!

heidenkind said...

Someday I'm going to read one of her books. :)

Serena said...

I now will have two books to read by Erica. Yes, I'm a slow behind the times gal sometimes, and these two books are some of those books....I hope I can get to them this year.

Meg said...

Well, you've convinced me! Friendship and food: two of my favorite subjects.

Melissa said...

Now I need to read (or listen) to 2 of her books!