Monday, June 20, 2016

Audiobook: Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

“The things we remember are what we hold on to. And what we hold on to becomes the story of our lives.” ― Katherine Center, Happiness for Beginners

Read by Marguerite Gavin
Duration: 9 hours 22 minutes

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.

My Thoughts: I love hiking. When hiking, I am able to appreciate nature more and I able to figure out the goals and challenges in my personal life. What a better way to spend my hiking adventures than by listening to a story about hiking? The synopsis of the book gave me the sense that this was a story of self-discovery. I was highly looking forward to that.

For the most part, I enjoyed the plot of the book. The idea of Helen trying to get her life back together and find her real self was engaging. I was able to relate to her situation when it came to building her self-confidence. No, I have never been married before, but  I was still able understand Helen's need to prove to herself that she was capable of doing the impossible. The parts that talked about building self-character and about hiking were my favorite. I could easily imagine the places that the author described as Helen and the rest of the hiking crew wandered through the wilderness. It made me start thinking of my goals when it came to hiking. Perhaps I too would like to join a similar hiking expedition that Helen did; of course, not as extreme as the one in the book. I still like running water. However, I cannot help but feel more inspired to get in touch with nature and learn more about myself. Even the prayer that the hiking guide, Beckett, said towards the end was very moving. He talked about the beauty of Mother Nature and how humans have been treating her. When I was listening to the prayer, I was actually walking down the canyon by my house. I could not help but shed a tear on how beautiful the prayer was.

Marguerite Gavin was the reader for this audio production. She did a fabulous job in portraying Helen and the other characters. She was able to emphasize the emotions that Helen went through. I could imagine how Helen battled her feelings for her ex-husband, the new love she was having for a much younger man, and the determination of trying to prove to herself that she was more courageous than she thought. Ms. Gavin was also able to portray Jake's character very well. His mannerisms were captured by Gavin. She brought the story to life. I highly enjoyed listening to her as I walked down the trails myself.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I do admit that there were some things that bothered me. The first thing was Overdrive must have transferred the audio incorrectly. Many of the chapters ended abruptly. In fact, they ended right in the middle of a sentence. I was not sure how much I missed from the actual book. But this was minor compared to the next thing that bothered me the most about the book.

I did my best to understand, and for a moment there I seemed to be okay with it, but in the end I was not comfortable with the romance between Helen and Jake. It is said that love has no age but I can't seem to always agree. I have no problem with women dating younger men, but I do when they are dating extremely young men. My feelings are the same when a much older man dates a very young woman. Helen was 32 and Jake was 22. He was also Helen's baby brother's best friend. It weirded me out! For instance, my brother and I have an 11 year age gap. The thought of me dating one of his friends makes me cringe. Now, if Jake was 32 and Helen was 42, then perhaps I would have felt better because Jake would have been more mature. Jake was simply too young for me. This was supposed to be a story of self-discovery but it turned more into a romance story between a mature woman and a recently graduated college kid. Jake was not a bad character; he was actually a great guy, but not for Helen.  Helen was in a tough situation and I would have liked it if the book remained focused on its original purpose: self-discovery. *sigh* To some, this would not be a problem. Unfortunately, it was for me.

As a whole, this was a good book. Besides the fact of the awkward romance and the cutting of the chapters, this was a well told story. It highly inspired me to keep hiking and gave more purpose to my wandering adventures through nature. I am glad that I listened to this book. I rate it:


  1. Sounds like an interesting read. I tend to agree with you about the age difference between Jake and Helen.

    1. Yes, age can make a difference. Thanks for stopping by!