July 8, 2006

A Walk on the Beach

A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman by Joan Anderson
Finished on 6/16/06
Rating: C (3/10 Ho-hum)

Joan Anderson has published three books centered around the year (and subsequent years with her husband) she spent living alone in her family cottage on Cape Cod, choosing not to join her husband when he accepts a new job and is forced to sell their home and relocate. As I wrote in my reading journal in 2002, after finishing A Year By the Sea, the idea of escaping to a cottage on Cape Cod to find yourself sounds wonderful, but perhaps for only a month or so, not an entire year! I happen to be very happily married to my best friend and have already spent far too much time living apart (thanks to those lovely job transfers and relocations) and can't imagine wanting to voluntarily spend a year apart ever again!

I enjoyed parts of the first installment of the trilogy (gave it a B, or a 6/10 rating), but thought the introspective details a bit tedious. Anderson's second book, An Unfinished Marriage, focuses on the time spent with her husband after he chooses to retire and join her at their Cape Cod cottage. It was a quick and thought-provoking read, which I enjoyed quite a bit (an A, or 5/5 rating), perhaps due to Anderson's more approachable narrative. She doesn't come across as quite so selfish and self-centered as she did in A Year By the Sea.

Unfortunately, I wasn't nearly as impressed with A Walk On the Beach. I had hoped to garner some words of wisdom from Anderson's elderly neighbor and mentor, Joan Erikson (wife of Erich Erikson, the renowned psychoanalyst). With a subtitle of "Tales of Wisdom from an Unconventional Woman" that's what I was led to believe. Yet, Anderson repeats the same stories and conversations she shared in her previous books, obviously expanding and providing further details to her anecdotes; yet to anyone who has read the earlier works, this sequel comes across as a regurgitation of ideas previously explored and a poor excuse for another royalty check.

I’m sure Joan Erickson was a wonderful woman and someone I’d enjoying walking the beaches of Cape Cod with – there is something about her, as told by Anderson, that reminded me of my grandmother – but, unfortunately, Anderson’s recollections of conversations between herself and her mentor come off as just a bit too contrived and, at times, even sappy. While some may find a gem or two in Erikson's oversimplified platitudes on living a rich and fulfilling life, the book was a waste of my time and money. I even had a sense of deja vu, wondering if I’d already it. This small book is quick to read and might do well as a stand-alone, but given a choice, I'd recommend Mitch Albom's Tuesday's With Morrie instead.

Note: After a quick visit to Amazon to capture the hyperlink for this book, I noticed that Anderson has written another book entitled A Weekend to Change Your Life : Find Your Authentic Self After a Lifetime of Being All Things to All People. Puleeeeeeze! No more!! This is one I can live without, thank you very much.

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