Having first seen the movie version of this book with the same title on Netflix, I had mixed feelings about reading the book. They say you should do one or the other but if you do both, read the book first. Well I ignored all that good advice.
First I watched the movie starring Ellie Kemper as Helen (best known for The Office and Bridesmaids) and Luke Grimes as Jake (best known for Fifty Shades of Grey and American Sniper). Then I read the book by author Katherine Center (The Bodyguard, What you Wish For and Things You Save in a Fire plus other titles).
I liked the movie – it was an easy watch with a feel good story. The movie follows the same story as the book but I did find that the book was slow to develop which fuelled my impatience a little. The book also took quite a bit of reading before we started to get into the hiking.
This book is a story about life, loss, moving on and well, finding happiness. The hiking is really a backdrop rather than a more central focus as perhaps it is in books such as Wild or a A Walk in the Woods.
I need to say at this point I did like this book. The author paints some lovely images:
‘The sound of the wind rustling those pine branches ahead. The mossy smell of the woods.’
And who can resist appreciating this image of climbing into your hiking gear?
‘That good, snug feeling when you settle your pack on your back and snap the hip belt.’
The story is about responsible Helen who is always trying to do the right thing for others despite them not appreciating it or needing her to do so. Of course, the last thing Helen thinks about is doing the right thing for herself. Helen has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility for others, in particular her brother, Duncan, who is much younger and by Helen’s judgement, immature and unreliable.
After a marriage break up, Helen decides to go on a hiking adventure not so much to find herself but more to challenge herself. And she does so in both regards. She meets up with Jake who is participating in a hiking adventure for his last time who, as it turns out, is also brother Duncan’s best friend.
Jake has had a crush on Helen since he was a kid so while it doesn’t take much to work out the plot from here, the book lays out a pleasant journey with a few turns along the way and even more discoveries.
‘That’s how I wound up digging a grave in my grandma’s backyard in a pink party dress and heels.’
And of course in Helen’s journey to find happiness, the reader gains a few pointers for the beginners out there looking for their own happiness.
‘And so, given every moment I could choose from, I end my story here, in the elevator, with the memory that I always turn to when I need to think about happiness and remember what it fells like.’
This is a pleasant, easy book to read and is perfect for those lazy summer days when it’s too hot to be on the trail!
You can purchase Happiness for Beginners from Amazon Australia
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AUD $24.50 RRP
Happiness for Beginners – book cover
This review was done with product purchased by Australian Hiker