beatnik bibliophilia: Happiness for Beginners

Cover of Happiness for Beginners: A Novel

Happiness for Beginners
Author: Katherine Center
Genre: Fiction (Memoir-ish)

Why I Read It: Anne Bogel (aka Modern Mrs. Darcy) described this book in her podcast (What Should I Read Next?, Episode 24) as being what Brené Brown would write if she wrote fiction.

My Synopsis: Grown-Up Wild + Realistic Eat. Pray. Love. + A Brené-Like Narrator

The moment that Anne mentioned Brené, I knew that I would be ordering this book and devouring it–we haven’t covered how nearly obsessed I am with Brené Brown, but I am sure we will. However, the plot also sounded similar to other reads that I have very much enjoyed, including Wild and Eat. Pray. Love., so I was excited to dig in.

I finished the book in two evenings. And, I loved it. More than the aforementioned titles, for reasons you can likely decipher.

I think the plot is adequately described above, but if you aren’t familiar, this book is about a woman nearing mid-life who goes into the woods to find herself. Yes, there is romance here, but what I truly loved about this novel is not the love story but the story about love–compassion, for ourselves and the other humans, especially other women, we encounter in the wild (i.e., life).

And besides the fact that Katherine Center’s heroine Helen is struggling to offer grace in some of the same ways I am, she is also hilarious, which makes me like her even more.

It’s not a complicated read, but life, especially lately, seems that way, so I enjoyed a bit of light and reckon many other women in my life will too (which is why I will be ordering and distributing several more copies). I didn’t ask anything more of this novel than what the title suggests I might find: a bit of happiness, and that is perfectly alright with me.

Also, if anyone knows of any wilderness survival schools that are as badass as the ones described in the book, let me know. Currently looking into BOSS.

Some of My Favorite Lines:

I didn’t seem to have any clothes with pockets, and so I kept the list folded up in my bra, relishing both the roughness of it against my softest skin and the vague nastiness of using my underwear like a pocket. And that, friends is how I set off for the wilderness: with a tribute to the person I once was, and a simple checklist for the death-defying superhero I planned to become, fold up and stuffed into my C-cup.

“It’s my battle cry: Appreciate Everything!”

 A good nickname should say something about who you are. It hints at something profound. Or maybe it’s just funny. But it’s meaningful, no matter what. It shows that you are known, that you have an identity other people recognize.

Windy went to Barnard? And was a Buddhist? That was the thing about her—she was full of surprises. She was never dull. And she was very much, unapologetically, her own person. I couldn’t even dislike her.

All morning, the kids had been talking about ‘next year,’ and making plans to come back and do it over again, in away that me saddest of all. Because I knew they wouldn’t. A year is an eternity., and they’d never come back. Life would get in the way. Maybe one or two would come back once or twice over the next few years, but it would never be this group again, in this place, with these circumstances. This was a moment in time that was already lost. I would certainly never come back—but not because I’d never want to. Only because that’s how life is. It moves too fast—faster and faster the older you get, no matter how much you’d like to slow it down.”

“But it’s okay, he taught you something. He taught you how to let someone love you a little bit. That lesson right there is enough to change your life.”

 But that’s not the story I wanted to tell. Those aren’t the moments my life I want to dwell on. They happened. They mattered. They left their marks. But the things we remember are what we hold on to, and what we hold on to becomes the story of our lives. We only get one story. And I am determined to make a good one.


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