As I was chopping up onions yesterday in my new apartment, the sun was setting out of the west kitchen window in an especially vibrant and colorful fashion. I could feel the sunshine warming my back (ever so slightly… it is Boston, after all). Dance music played in the background, infusing my mood (and my knife skills) with their beat. I thought to myself, hmm- this is nice.
Cooking is definitely on my list of pleasures. And sunshine. Maybe sunshine just sounds good right now due to Boston’s below-freezing weather and my sad, tired radiators.
How about you? What makes you happy?
Whether it’s reading, parasailing, knitting, running, or beekeeping… in The Year of Pleasures, Elizabeth Berg encourages you to do more of it, on the daily.
One of my favorite quotes from the book:
“I’m not talking about the things that happen to you. I’m talking about things you make happen. I’m talking about purposefully doing one thing that brings you happiness every single day, in a very conscious way.”
In many aspects, this book is about a person embarking on a new life, which made it interesting for me to read while I packed up a moving truck, scrubbed a new apartment clean, and browsed IKEA for some type of contraption to take my bathroom from “cramped” to “livable.” Strangely enough, the main character of the book was moving from the city that I was moving to (Boston, Massachusetts). There was even a mention of my new neighborhood, and some of the outrageously delicious ethnic food it boasts. Is it strange to find restaurant recommendations in a fiction novel about a widow moving to the Midwest? Maybe. But that’s where we are today (and yes, I will be trying that Ethiopian restaurant).
Betta Nolan’s husband has passed away, and she faces the challenge of rebuilding the second half of her life. The good news is (and here’s where the book gets a little hokey for me), she is absolutely loaded, has an abundance of liquid cash to invest in a business for which she has zero experience or skills, and just so happens to meet an array of “quirky” (read: flat, one-dimensional) characters who quickly usher her into their good ol’ midwestern lives.
I’m from the Midwest. And Elizabeth Berg, I’m telling you, it would still be weird to come home from work and find my child eating muffins in the home of a just-moved-in-neighbor that we did not know. That’s weird, Elizabeth Berg. I’m sorry. Midwestern kids are still taught about strangers.
It’s also entirely possible that I’ve been watching too many murder mysteries. Speaking of which, are you watching Making A Murderer? You should. Equal parts horrifying and can’t-stop-watching. Makes me want to binge-watch it like nobody’s business.
Okay, back to the review.
Despite some of the downfalls, there was still a lot to like about this book (and it makes me want to check out some more of Elizabeth Berg’s writing). The way that she describes simple pleasures: taking a bath, cooking a nice chicken dinner, making a great cup of coffee: it made me look for these simple pleasures in my own life. I could relate immensely with Betta’s creative spirit, her love of beautiful things, and even her relationship with her late husband. I am also blessed with a man who is my partner- someone that I love to share life’s pleasures with. Like Betta, I would find it jarring and strange to rediscover these things on my own.
And, I think that there is something to be learned from the idea that we can make our own happiness. I don’t necessarily agree that it can always be produced with physical things or diverting activities… but if I had unlimited cash and time like Betta Nolan, I sure would try.
Check this one out if:
- You need a break from that hard-hitting, heavy war novel that you are trying to power through. If this one doesn’t suit your fancy, try another lighthearted read.
- You have a long plane ride coming up, followed by a beach vacation (and are looking for some light reading).
- You are embarking on a new adventure: maybe a move, or a new opportunity, and you are looking to rediscover pleasures in your life.
Skip this one if:
- You don’t think you can get past some of the too-easy plot devices and simply devised characters. If you think these will ruin the experience for you, I’d pass.
- You don’t like reading about mourning or loss. There’s a lot of content about Betta’s late husband, their memories, her sadness… the tone of the book was definitely on the sad side for a light read.
Is Betta Nolan a Hungry Heroine? Well… I will overlook a completely ridiculous and entirely un-Hungry Heroine subplot about a rented room in an apartment of some college boys (if you read it, let me know and we can attempt to make sense of this!), and say that yes, she is a Hungry Heroine. She’s hungry for a new adventure, and a new life.
What’s the first book that you’ve read in 2016?
[As always, this post is not sponsored and all of my books are library-rented or purchased by me. I am not affiliated with any publisher or author nor do I accept free products. Just love to share… reader to reader!]