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am 21. September 1999
A Year By the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson (Doubleday) A 50ish woman separates from her husband -- kids are grown, marriage is stale, he takes a job in another city, and she felt that accompanying him was pointless. She installed herself in their cottage in Cape Cod to reflect and figure out what to do -- supporting herself by working in a fish market -- and it drags on for a year - it's a true story and she just happens to be a writer. I found it in the Women's Studies subsection of the Sociology Section at Borders -- I had read an excerpt in a magazine and it left me hungry for more. It was from the 3rd chapter where she spends the day swimming with the dolphins. -- Anderson's style is best described as profound, yet easy prose. It reads like a bag of Lays Potato Chips (the original, full fat content, not those anemic baked fat-free cardboard wafers)-- once you open it up and dig in, you just can't stop. As I read her take on society's perception of women's' roles -- and what it does to our spirit and creativity, I find myself sitting up in bed, nodding my head, saying "uh, huh" and "amen" out loud! (this could be because I was raised in a Pentecostal Holiness Church, and our childhood behavior patterns are long with us!) Anyway, I read some sentences over and over again -- trying to commit her succinct, bullseye phrasing to memory, so that I could repeat it to myself and others at just the right time --
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am 7. Juli 1999
It is a rare gift to find a soul mate between the pages of a wonderful book. Joan Anderson's style is liquid gold. I was awash in salt air and alternately displaced to Cape Cod and the isle of Roan Inish (my all-time favorite movie). The seals were a fantastic metaphor. Joan's personal pilgrimage is the dream of every woman of her generation who hopes her loved ones will discover her on her own terms. Every woman of a certain age will identify with this story for her own reason. I am also a writer who moved to Cape Cod to complete a womens novel. The outcome and motives are the same; mine is a different story. Anderson will find herself swamped with those of us who want to be her friend, neighbor or confidante. Most of us facing a coming-of-middle-age lack the courage to risk everything. She tackles her pilgrimage with strength and a marvelous sense of humor and emerges a winner in every sense. It was a pleasure to spend time with Joan Anderson. A Year by the Shore is one of those books I raced through, only to find I was sad when I finished it. I was on page 100 before I realized that my feet were cold. I grabbed a cup of tea and some socks and continued reading, saving the last 20 pages so I could savor them in the morning. This book is the perfect gift for many friends of all ages
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am 28. Mai 1999
Anderson's husband announced one day that they must move because he has changed jobs. She is fifty years old and refuses to move with him. Instead she retreats for a year of inner exploration, to their summer cottage on Cape Cod. There she learns to take risks - swimming with the seals; spending a solitary night on a sand bar; working in a local fish market and learning to dig for clams in order to make money to pay for a new hot water heater for the cottage. Along the way she befriends a couple of locals, and learns the need for adventure, wonder and joy in her life. At the end her husband re-joins her in order to retire to the cottage on the Cape. But all I could think about was how nice and convenient that her husband was still there waiting for her, after her year of solitude. She tells us nothing about their interaction together during their year of separation, other than a Christmas visit and a couple of very brief phone conversations. Surely they must have spent time talking about their marriage and their future together. But we, the reader are given no inkling of it. The husband just reappears again at the end, ready to resume the marriage.(He is a very shadowy character throughout the book, never fully fleshed out) This omission from the book, of the process of re-ordering a long marriage was a disappointment to me, although I realize this was Anderson's story.
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am 11. Juni 1999
I loved Joan Anderson's book, what she had to say and the honest, no-frills way she said it. Right from the very beginning where seals appear, I could almost hear the sound track from the movie "Secrets of Roan Inish". If you saw that movie you'll know what I mean. I didn't doubt for a minute that she did indeed work long, hard hours as the only woman in the fish market, manage to get her clamdigger's license, just to make ends meet, and refused to allow any limits to stop her from incredible physical work. She wanted to pay for repairs herself and not rely on her husband, who she decided not to follow when he was transferred out of state. Whatever needed doing she was solely responsible for getting done. Cooking for her nephew's film crew and cast. Setting the rules, after he tried to beat her to it. She managed to stay way under his budget, and earn only minumum wage for herself. Knowing that there was much wisdom and friendship to savor from a frail, elderly woman she stumbled upon in the fog. I'm from her era and could relate perfectly when she described herself as "a good girl". How far you went with your boy friend determined whether you were "good" or "loose", in our day. After a year of thinking about what is important in life, knowing she could chose any path, she made the decision that to me made it all worthwhile. She had the courage to act on her wishes, keeping track in her journal and then luckily for us, shared it in "A Year by the Sea"
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am 23. Oktober 1999
A female friend suggested I read a new book by Joan Anderson if I wanted to get a notion of the female psyche going through a sort of mid-life crisis. Admittedly, there may be a general con- sensus that only males, and then only some of us, experience this life phenomenon, that women some- how don't or, worse, shouldn't. They, in fact, have their own rite of passage...menopause. So, without a lot of enthusiasm, I got my hands on a copy of this autobiographical book and began reading. A Year by the Sea is another in the long line of twentienth century self-help books which present themselves with modern answers to modern dilemmas. The problem with Anderson's book, like so many of its type, is that it presupposes a problem, in fact, creates a problem so that it has something to solve. Anderson makes no sound case in describing a married life that demanded rescuing. She alludes to one or two instances of insensitivity on her husband's part, but even these are not of a magnitude to justify in most people's minds the compelling need to abandon the nest and strike out on one's own. If anything, her marriage may have become stale, or predictable, at least as she briefly describes it. It would seem then that her motivation was questionable, even if her intentions were sincere. The conclusion in the twelve month chronicle comes quickly and is more than a bit unsatisfying. Whether the newly reborn couple will live happily ever after we will never know, at least not based on the 195th page. Anderson's solution to her marital dissatisfaction is to escape to the sea...a primal drive to return to one's roots. What she fails to acknowledge, however, is that in seeking to uncover herself, she cannot bury her past.
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am 22. November 1999
I recently attended a storytelling evening given by the Marion Foundation with author Joan Anderson. I had no intention of purchasing Joan's book, but came away with such enthusiasm that I did indeed purchase her book, A Year by the Sea... When I opened the book a few days later, I devoted the entire day to completing it...I see this book as a wake up call to males and females to open your hearts and senses to life and its wonders. I could identify with Joan as she speaks about taking risks, laughing at oneself, really looking at nature and taking time for oneself! Life can be exciting and fulfilling when we take time to wonder at the world around us. These are the messages I came away with; I see her book not necessarily about her relationship with her husband, but with herself. I want to pass these messages along to my mother who needs to look around her at the wonders of life, to laugh, to take risks and to love herself.
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am 9. März 2000
I am fortunate to have plucked Joan Anderson's "A Year by the Sea" from the myriad of books in the "Women's Issues" section of a Milwaukee bookstore. I was on a cherished break from mothering two toddlers. I sat in a chair in the bookstore, began to read and two hours vanished. I completed the book at home, well into the night (giving up precious sleep). I have often wished and pleaded for a wise woman mentor to help me through the delicate and confusing issues of wifehood and womanhood. Where does the constant giving end? Where do I began? Joan became that woman mentor/friend through her book. I am eager to read it again and write down the wisdom she offers. Peace without answers, peace in not having answers...this is the greatest gift I have received from "A Year by the Sea". I am telling all of my female friends to read this one!
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am 2. Februar 2000
WOW! Joan Anderson's eloquent descriptive text left me totally breathless. I read at least two books each month and her writing style tops them all. Without being corny, cute or commonplace as the tendency of so many of today's authors, her vivid scenes liken her to a camera with a wide angle lens and provide the brick and mortar for a wonderful story. This book should be read by all women. Not to say they would be able to do what she did -- get away for a year on their own -- but, in essence, her story does encourage the average woman to dig way down deep into a her soul for questions and answers she may seek. Joan and I have different interests and motivations, but when it comes to souls ... we're on the same plane. Great job, Joan. When is your next novel coming out?
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am 15. Juli 1999
Ms. Anderson embraces solitude and physical labor during a year away from her husband in order to take stock and decide the direction her life should take next. She suggests that women (and men) of all ages are "unfinished" throughout life. She and we are on a daily journey of discovery and change that ends only with death, not with a specific age, station in life, or accomplishment.
The rich, poetic, and spiritual details of Ms. Anderson's particular story go beyond her life and speak to anyone who stops, or wants to stop, for a time along the way to reflect and assess, for whatever reason.
You might especially enjoy this book if you are drawn to the wonders of the shoreline.
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am 13. April 2000
This short, easy to read book jumped out at me at the local library, possibly because of its fashionably small size. The story inside is definitely not small in any way! Joan Anderson tells an emotionally-captivating tale of a very self-conscious woman who suffers from low self-esteem. Her kids are grown, her husband boring. The story that evolves touches even the inner pinings of me--a happily-married 28-year old with no children. I think every giving wife and mother feels the way Joan does, yet the vast majority never have the guts to make the life-changing decision she did. Those of us without her resolve can live vicariously through her, and it's still a wonderful, worthwhile journey.
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