Have you ever gone to a health resort? Or even taken a weekend at a spa? As someone whose pampering extends solely to pedicures and manicures, the idea of a spa or health resort sounds heavenly. When I discovered that Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty was set at a health resort with a twist, I decided to give this book a try.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty follows the lives of nine people through ten days at a health resort. Each person gathered at the health resort is there for a variety of reasons. Some are there to lose weight, some to fix their marriages, some to figure out a new way to live, while others are there for reasons that they don’t want to tell others. Even the staff have secrets to hide: both about themselves and the health resort. When setting foot into Tranquillum House, guests are told that this health resort may require them to do things that they aren’t comfortable with. This isn’t your traditional health resort, so they are going to have to work hard to get the results for which they are looking. In the end though, it will be worth the effort(or so they are told).
While each characters is presented somewhat separately in this novel and readers are privy to sections from each one’s point of view, Moriarty chooses to lay the bulk of her exposition on the character of Frances Welty. Frances is a best-selling romance novelist whose latest book is not doing so well. Struggling to figure out what she should do career-wise and simultaneously reeling from a disastrous broken heart, Frances has booked herself into Tranquillum House and is unsure of what to expect. Upon meeting her fellow guests, Frances is immediately intrigued. Using her writerly instincts, Frances tries to figure out the reasons that each has come to Tranquillum House. The person who fascinates her the most is not one of the quests though: it is the director and owner of Tranquillum House itself. Frances finds herself wondering if she really can solve/cure/make better/provide all the answers for Frances and the rest of the guests. Doubts continue to niggle throughout Frances’s stay and leave her wondering if she should stick out her stay or voice her concerns to the other guests. Could the other guests have the same concerns or are they content to follow the staff through the activities planned for each day? Frances will have to figure out a way to connect and figure out what is really happening at Tranquillum House.
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Quarter Life Poetry: Poems for the Young, Broke and Hangry by Samantha Jayne is a poetry collection for the disheartened, for the hungry, for the post-college 20-somethings who really thought they would have their life completely together by now. In other words, while reading this book, I felt like it was written for me. This is a book of comedic poetry, one that poses short, amusing, and remarkably light-hearted, sarcastic comments about life that we thought we would have figured out by now.
Samantha Jayne is an actress and writer who lives out in Los Angeles. One of the things she has become famous for are her popular Tumblr and Instagram accounts, Quarter Life Poetry, where she posts snappy four-lined poems about her life as a 20-something post-college. She has poems paired with related images on topics ranging from work, money, sex, life, student loans, love, and any/every other challenge that people going through life post-college are faced with on a daily basis.
Jayne’s poetry really captures what it’s like when you find out that yet another one of your friends in pregnant while you’re just trying to keep a plant alive, how you feel trying to pay off your student loans while working a 40 hour a week job that doesn’t allow for much of a social life, and also how it feels to be stuck in a dating scene with what seems like the less than desirables right after college. Jayne perfectly illustrates the fact that students in college think life post-college is glamorous, when in reality, the post-college adults know that being in your 20s is really all about just trying to find yourself amongst piles of student loan debt, cheap take-out, and the more-than-occasional trip to the store to buy more wine. While this book was marketed towards post-college 20-somethings, it is a quick, short read that people of all ages can enjoy as they reminisce on their post-college life.
There’s something very comforting about Erica Bauermeister’s books — they’re sort of “stop and smell the roses” reminder. For me, when she describes the smell of freshly baked bread, I swear I’m going to master making it from scratch, even though my past attempts at bread -baking have often yielded less-than satisfying results. Indeed, at times I’ve been too embarrassed to throw it out for the birds! (I mean, really, what if even they didn’t eat it?) But enough about me.
As in her first book, The School of Essential Ingredients, each chapter focuses on a different character. In her new one, Joy for Beginners, the characters are all women and all friends, even though they are different ages and at various stages in their lives. These women don’t live Pollyanna lives — loved ones still die, couples still divorce, some parent-child relationships stay strained — but through it all, their friendships remain strong and continue to provide the support and encouragement each of them needs.
The book opens with a potluck dinner party, celebrating Kate’s recent victory over breast cancer. Kate agrees to try something she’s always feared– white-water rafting– but in return, each of them must also promise to do something they find difficult, though Kate gets to pick their challenges. In some cases, the task seems surprisingly simple, such as baking bread or discarding books left by an ex-husband. Still, Kate seems to have an innate sense as to what her friends need most.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a perfect gift for a good friend — or for someone who wants to make bread from scratch!