Review: Happiness For Beginners by Katherine Center

Happiness For Beginners by Katherine Center
Publication date: Mar. 24, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Category: Adult - Contemporary Fiction
Source: Purchased
Summary: 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. (

The Good
It seemed fitting to read about a woman the same age as me (this rarely happens!) but whose life was vastly different. The differences didn’t matter though. There was something utterly relatable and endearing about Helen Carpenter as she fumbled her way through the aftermath of her divorce. She’s determined to pull herself together and whether you’re single, divorced, fresh out of college or have years of professional or life experience under your belt, there will always be moments where you’ll have to do the exact same thing. Although, maybe not quite in the extreme way Helen does. It’s been a year since her divorce and she decides the best way to find her best self is to sign up for a wilderness survival course. It’s completely unlike her, which is the point. It’s partially her ten years younger brother’s fault for giving her the idea. But when Helen finds out that his annoying best friend is signed up for the same trip and wants to get a ride from her, she can’t help but feel like her entire plan for self-discovery will be ruined. Except, that’s not what happens at all. (Cue me squealing in girly delight over said guy.)

For me the biggest and best takeaway from the book is this — we often have this set idea of what will make us happy but life will, more often than not, surprise us with something to contradict those notions. And sometimes it might take a while to see or embrace it because we are just so fixated on what we think happiness or perfection should look like. Helen struggles with this from page one. She has a plan and nothing is going to stand in her way. But then her brother’s friend encourages her to let her guard down and to face notions she’s long held onto about her family. Climbing through the mountain range in Wyoming when she’s never even gone camping pushes her physically and emotionally. The people on this trip with her are younger, more open and at first glance, not her kind of crowd. But she eventually finds a place, albeit sometimes awkward place, among them. This trip becomes about so much more than reaching the finish line, it’s about everything she learns about herself and others along the way.

(No) Reservations
None! I loved the author’s writing so much. It flowed seamlessly, the dialogue was witty and every character had an important role to play.

Do I recommend?
SO MUCH YES. Thanks to Estelle, a bunch of bloggers, including myself, have taken the time to read this book and I am so glad I did. It was exactly what I needed to read at the time and I highly recommend it!


  1. I very rarely read adult novels and even more rarely contemporary ones but after reading Estelle's rave reviews and seeing everyone else love, I am starting to think I need to check this one out. Thanks for the review!

  2. Yessss. Happiness for Beginners was such a lovely read! I think it definitely tackled themes that anyone, regardless of their situation in life, could relate to, and I loved that. I definitely want to see what Center has coming next (and check out her other book)!


with love,