“Joy for Beginners”-by Erica Bauermeister


I devoured Erica Bauermeister’s first novel, “The School of Essential Ingredients” and have eagerly anticipated this, her latest offering.  Erica is especially good depicting women and profiles each of a special cluster of friends in this new novel.  The recent history of these women and distinct personality traits are revealed when each of them recieves a “challenge” selected by Kate who is celebrating her good health after having faced life-threatening challenges of her own.

As the vignettes unfold, their themes are various: bread-making, garden tending, book shelf clearing, tatoo getting.  Sounds simple enough, but each of these tasks become crucial, life-changing, pivot points for these women.  

The woman I identified most with was Sara, who was challenged with leaving her growing family at home to travel to Europe on her own.  She set out to redisocover the individual that had been lost, (or perhaps hidden) underneath the duties of wife and mother.  Sara finds herself in Venice and the following exerpt discibes her first night of dining alone:

“The pasta arrived, four plump squarees arranged across her plate, their edges pressed shut in tiny half-moons the size and shape of a child’s fingertip.  Melted butter flecked with thin, dark shavings flowed lanquidly over thier surfaces and formed a golden pool on the plate around the ravioli.  The smell rose up, deep and luxurious, like perfume warmed between the breats of a beautiful woman.

“Tartufo,” the waiter said to Sara’s inquiring expression.  “Truffles.”

“Oh my,” the American woman at the next table said, and directed her attention to her husband.

Sara took a bite and the taste filled her mouth, dense and rich, like the essence of longing, then the pasta gave way to warm, fresh ricotta cheese and the sweet earthiness of procini mushrooms.

“Oh my,” said Sara softly to herself.”

Remembering our recent sojourn through Italy and the food delights that awaited us at every turn, I found this sensual depiction of  tasting, an absolute delight.

The rest of the novel is as tasty as this excerpt-a perfect summe read.

Kath’s quote: “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” – Truman Capote

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