Friday, April 17, 2015

"Happiness for Beginners" by Katherine Center

Helen is 32 and has been divorced from a man who loved drinking more than he loved her for a year now, and she knows that it's time for her to be strong and to move on with her life. Knowing that she needs to do something symbolic in order to get past everything that happened, she signs up for a three week wilderness survival course- one that doesn't have the best reputation for actual survival.

Discovering that her younger brother Duncan's annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, and that somehow she has been volunteered to drive him to Wyoming where the course is taking place, changes her mind about the trip. She's sure that it will now be nothing short of a disaster. But what she finds is something entirely different- perhaps it will be on the brink of disaster that she can finally find happiness again.

I picked up Happiness for Beginners and started to read it....and then I couldn't put it down. I became caught up in the story of Helen- prickly on the outside but genuinely a person who wants to be loved despite that. I loved Josh, Duncan's best friend, from the very beginning as well. It's hard not to. He's charming and sweet to Helen, and he seems to only see the best in her despite her guarded nature. As we delve deeper into the story and we discover what tragedy Helen has been through, and what secret Josh is hiding, I liked both characters even more.

Katherine Center has created endearing secondary characters too, and although I liked almost none of Helen's survival group at the beginning of the story, by the end I found them all to be entertaining or interesting in some way. Center's absorbing writing kept me reading page after page, long after it was time for me to put the book down. Most interesting to me was how Center got me thinking about happiness, and about what truly makes me happy in life. That message was there, but not in a hit-you-over-the-head preachy way, and I appreciated that even more. It was subtle but enlightening.

Happiness for Beginners was a satisfying story of one woman's quest to find herself, and her own happiness, after a painful divorce. It wasn't the first book that I've read by Center and it certainly won't be the last. It was enjoyable to the last page, and I thank the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

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