A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It’s supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother’s even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can’t imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen’s well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.
Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen’s own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.
I loved this book! I picked it up for two reasons: one, it reminded me of WILD by Cheryl Strayed (but fiction), and two, I have loved Katherine Center’s previous novels. This woman can write! She pulls you deep into the heart of her characters and has you not only routing for them every step of the way, but also learning things about yourself, as well. Her books and her writing always seems to have a hopeful, positive spin on life. Even when her characters are facing tough situations and their lives seem to be turned upside down, she brings that silver lining into every moment. Helen Carpenter was a relatable, likeable heroine and the love story wasn’t predictable, saccharine, or aggressive. This is the story of a woman discovering herself, discovering what she’s capable of and learning to love her life, even the ugly and difficult moments, because it all makes up a rich and interesting life. Brene Brown has written a quote for the cover of the book, “This wise, delicious, page-turning novel won’t let you go. Katherine Center writes about falling down, grwoing up, and finding love like nobody else.” I couldn’t agree more with her sentiments. Happiness for Beginners is thoughtful, sweet, and inspiring.