A Year By The Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman Info

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The basis for the major motion picture of the same
name. An entrancing memoir of how one woman's journey of
self-discovery gave her the courage to persevere in re-creating her
life.

Life is a work in progress, as ever-changing as a
sandy shoreline along the beach. During the years Joan Anderson was a
loving wife and supportive mother, she had slowly and unconsciously
replaced her own dreams with the needs of her family. With her sons
grown, however, she realized that the family no longer centered on the
home she provided, and her relationship with her husband had become
stagnant. Like many women in her situation, Joan realized that she had
neglected to nurture herself and, worse, to envision fulfilling goals
for her future. As her husband received a wonderful job opportunity
out-of-state, it seemed that the best part of her own life was finished.
Shocking both of them, she refused to follow him to his new job and
decided to retreat to a family cottage on Cape Cod. At first casting
about for direction, Joan soon began to take pleasure in her
surroundings and call on resources she didn't realize she had. Over the
course of a year, she gradually discovered that her life as an
"unfinished woman" was full of possibilities. Out of that magical,
difficult, transformative year came A Year by the Sea, a record
of her experiences and a treasury of wisdom for readers.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for A Year By The Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman:

4

Jan 15, 2009

This is a tough book to rate. I rarely review books, but I felt that I needed to get this one off my chest.

I gave it one less than 5 stars because I have an aversion to the cult of self. The premise of a woman leaving her husband to discover herself made me uneasy and skeptical. Self-discovery is important, self-worship is not. I feel that she often slipped from redemptive moments involving lessons about who she is and who she needs to be... to damning moments in which she embraced her errors This is a tough book to rate. I rarely review books, but I felt that I needed to get this one off my chest.

I gave it one less than 5 stars because I have an aversion to the cult of self. The premise of a woman leaving her husband to discover herself made me uneasy and skeptical. Self-discovery is important, self-worship is not. I feel that she often slipped from redemptive moments involving lessons about who she is and who she needs to be... to damning moments in which she embraced her errors and "woman-ness" as a liberation from responsibility and reconciliation.

The beauty of this fluctuation lies in the fact that they separated and did not divorce, making the book a happy ending where both rediscover that life necessitates liveliness but not at the exclusion of community. If her life story ended in divorce, I would have given this book 2 stars.. not because of the divorce itself but because the marriage would be replaced by self-importance. Naturally when a woman finds herself naked and swimming with seals she has a bloated sense of happiness. In just the same way that a new romance has speed and passion and hypercolor, the romance of drinking wine by the sea and allowing oneself to be spontaneous and with few responsibilities (her husband still pays for most of her year-long adventure alone with very little credit or appreciation) is an emotional high that promises to last but that has never been designed to have staying power.

It also got one less than 5 stars because she hit me over the head with metaphor after metaphor after metaphor. The writing is excellent at points and unbearably tedious at others. Her chapter dedicated to her night before she and her husband reunited.. the night that she spent alone on a deserted beach.. was difficult to trudge through. (If she were to write my last sentence, she'd say, "That chapter of my life was difficult to trudge through, like feet sinking into the sand, slowing every moment, every moment demanding to be taken in with the greatest care and concentration." -- but then, I'm putting words into her mouth.)

Nevertheless, I gave the book one more than 3 stars because it is a book I won't soon forget. I was appalled at how many faults the two of us share, as well. I think that I learned some good things from her memoir.. hopefully learning from her mistakes so that I don't make them myself.

I would recommend this book, but with caution. If you can manage to not be wooed by the tearing apart of relationships and still embrace the need of married people to be independent, read away. Every memoir should be carefully scrutinized, separating the wheat from the chaff. ...more
4

Jan 03, 2016

To coin a genre, I’d call this a Feminist-Midlife-Marriage-Nature Memoir. I recommend it to readers of May Sarton because of the solitude theme, which often has an almost spiritual aspect to it. There is a sense that the author is on a pilgrimage or retreat, and the natural setting is in some way the key to healing.

When her husband moved for work, Joan Anderson decided not to go with him but instead to retreat to their Cape Cod cottage for a year and work on figuring out what she really wanted To coin a genre, I’d call this a Feminist-Midlife-Marriage-Nature Memoir. I recommend it to readers of May Sarton because of the solitude theme, which often has an almost spiritual aspect to it. There is a sense that the author is on a pilgrimage or retreat, and the natural setting is in some way the key to healing.

When her husband moved for work, Joan Anderson decided not to go with him but instead to retreat to their Cape Cod cottage for a year and work on figuring out what she really wanted from life now that she had reached middle age. “Boy, have I ever allowed too many days to go dull and permitted too many parts of me to go unused.” Yet money was a serious problem, forcing her into the world of menial labor. She worked at a fish market, went clamming, and even cooked for her nephew’s entire film crew – all things she never would have considered earlier in life. As much as she relished her new freedom, she had a pang of guilt whenever she thought about her husband:
I feel naughty, even bad. The one who leaves is always wrong, while the other partner, who passively goes along, gets all the sympathy. Most men, I’ve noticed, are reluctant to walk out. They may want out of their marriage, but set it up so the wife actually does the walking.
Each month of this transformative year gets its own chapter. Throughout water and tide metaphors are used to connect with the seasons as well as with female sexuality. Anderson passed a surprisingly pleasant Christmas with her husband and two adult sons. She also made a friend who ended up being more like a guru: Joan Erikson, octogenarian widow of Erik Erikson (a famous psychoanalyst). “Every woman should have a mentor,” Anderson believes, “not her mother, but someone who doesn’t have a stake in how she turns out, who encourages her to risk, who picks her up when she falls flat on her face.”

It’s a powerful vision of female solidarity, and I appreciated the womb-like atmosphere Anderson creates: a haven outside of time where she can stay while she repairs her psyche. As a Jungian analyst taught her, “Many of us would just as soon have our choices made for us, but the heroine, when at a juncture, makes her own choice—the nonheroine lets others make it for her.”

At the end of the year, Anderson’s husband retired and joined her at the cottage. This was published in 1999 and followed by a sequel, An Unfinished Marriage, in 2002, which will tell what happened next and whether their reunion worked. I need to get hold of it soon.

My free copy came from The Book Thing of Baltimore. ...more
1

Apr 19, 2009

Basically this book represents everything I hate about this genre: it's self-indulgent and, worse, self-pitying. Joan Anderson is fortunate enough to have the means to take an extended period of time "off" from her marriage and mid-life crisis to figure herself out, but the life lessons virtually slip past her as she wallows in the "shoulda-couldas" of her life until now. Her story in not at all unusual, nor, frankly, all that sad or interesting. And unlike Elizabeth Gilbert in EAT, PRAY, LOVE, Basically this book represents everything I hate about this genre: it's self-indulgent and, worse, self-pitying. Joan Anderson is fortunate enough to have the means to take an extended period of time "off" from her marriage and mid-life crisis to figure herself out, but the life lessons virtually slip past her as she wallows in the "shoulda-couldas" of her life until now. Her story in not at all unusual, nor, frankly, all that sad or interesting. And unlike Elizabeth Gilbert in EAT, PRAY, LOVE, who had the good fortune of not only taking a year off from a bad marriage and unknown future, but who also got to do so in exotic locales, Anderson never shows real growth or self-actualization. She relays her year in Cape Cod in little more than journal entries, without the "a-ha!" And unlike Gilbert, there is no humor nor flair for prose. In fact, the most enthralling character in her memoir is not HER, but Joan Erickson, the widow of famed pyschologist Erik Erickson. And it is Joan Erickson's wisdom that Anderson passes on to her readers, nothing that she has earned on her own. The subtitle of the book is: "Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman." She needs to keep working on that. ...more
4

Jan 01, 2008

Joan Anderson's husband came home to announce he'd received a wonderful job opportunity across country in Oregon and they were moving. Their two grown sons were married and living lives of their own, and nothing seemed to be tying the Andersons to their home.

Joan shocked her husband and herself when she told him she refused to go and was instead moving to the family cottage on Cape Cod. Thus began a year in her life, living hand to mouth, on the banks of the Cape.

The book was a little bit of "A Joan Anderson's husband came home to announce he'd received a wonderful job opportunity across country in Oregon and they were moving. Their two grown sons were married and living lives of their own, and nothing seemed to be tying the Andersons to their home.

Joan shocked her husband and herself when she told him she refused to go and was instead moving to the family cottage on Cape Cod. Thus began a year in her life, living hand to mouth, on the banks of the Cape.

The book was a little bit of "A Gift from the Sea" mingled with life experiences on the Cape. I haven't been to stay on the Cape since I was four years old (I think) and I have some vague, wonderful memories of the place which neatly jived with what Anderson wrote about. The book is a misty watercolor portrait of a popular summer place, but she writes so much of what happens in the off season, and it was enchanting.

I really, really loved this book. It was like a warm cup of cocoa on a cold day. I loved how becoming her own person didn't necessarily mean that Joan couldn't find room in her heart to reconcile with her husband, but that they both needed the wake up call of separation to understand that their life couldn't be what it was before. Her own journey of self discovery gave me time to think about my life as a wife, a sister, a friend, and a human being, and who I am and who I want to be. It was great.
...more
1

Jan 09, 2018

I thought it was really interesting the way she drank every night. Even when she had to get a new boiler for her house and thus was really short on cash, she still always bought wine and drank it every night. She was living alone for the first time in decades and trying to figure out how to be her own person again, but she drank every night. I thought it was a bit counterproductive.

Anyway, I really wish I could reproduce all my marginalia here so you could understand how ridiculous I thought I thought it was really interesting the way she drank every night. Even when she had to get a new boiler for her house and thus was really short on cash, she still always bought wine and drank it every night. She was living alone for the first time in decades and trying to figure out how to be her own person again, but she drank every night. I thought it was a bit counterproductive.

Anyway, I really wish I could reproduce all my marginalia here so you could understand how ridiculous I thought this book was (not just because of the drinking, I must emphasize—that's just something that stands out for me months later). Instead I'll just let my rating speak for itself. ...more
5

Jul 23, 2012

Three friends and I recently read this book as a Book Club selection: and to a person, we were captured by it.

This is not your typical Reflective Memoir Toward Personal Growth (is there even a 'typical' for this genre?). Two of us are more Self introspective, reflective, self-assessors -- and two of us are not. A book we'd all read together last year in a similar vein was deemed by two of us to be 'self-absorbed whining by women who aren't busy enough to find anything better to do'. We all Three friends and I recently read this book as a Book Club selection: and to a person, we were captured by it.

This is not your typical Reflective Memoir Toward Personal Growth (is there even a 'typical' for this genre?). Two of us are more Self introspective, reflective, self-assessors -- and two of us are not. A book we'd all read together last year in a similar vein was deemed by two of us to be 'self-absorbed whining by women who aren't busy enough to find anything better to do'. We all walked away for THIS book feeling a little differently about our own lives ~ as though we'd spent time with a cherished and really honest friend. Two of us will be, at some point, continuing on with parts two (An Unfinished Marriage) and three (A Walk on the Beach).

There were so many quotes I wanted to capture from this book; so many ideas, truths and recognitions.

Takeaways for me? I am going to say YES more often. I will observe others vs manage them more often. I will try new things more, provide and pursue opportunity to impress myself more - and show up as fully and simply as possible, everywhere.

I rated this book 10/10. ...more
1

Jan 26, 2010

HATED, HATED, HATED IT. If you really like books about whiney women who believe that providing love, food, shelter, clothing, and anything else that costs money does NOT mean you are providing for the family, you may like this. I wonder what a book about a man who suddenly leave his wife to "find himself" would be rated? Somehow, I think women would condemn a man who leaves his wife of 20+ years, so I don't understand why so many cheer this woman on. She keeps claiming to be independent during HATED, HATED, HATED IT. If you really like books about whiney women who believe that providing love, food, shelter, clothing, and anything else that costs money does NOT mean you are providing for the family, you may like this. I wonder what a book about a man who suddenly leave his wife to "find himself" would be rated? Somehow, I think women would condemn a man who leaves his wife of 20+ years, so I don't understand why so many cheer this woman on. She keeps claiming to be independent during her year off, except she's not. She's still very much financially dependent on the husband she left. Let's see a book about a man who leaves his wife of 20+ years, but then still wants her to do the bulk of financially supporting him while he plays around, taking minimum wage jobs here and there, and laying around. ...more
2

Aug 17, 2011

I wanted to like this book. Truly, I wanted to love it. I just couldn't. I don't necessarily have a problem with needing a trial separation from one's spouse. I can see why Anderson would've been angry when her husband came home one day and just said, 'I took a job out of state. We're moving.' For him to just presume something like that and demand she come with him was not ok in my book.

That said, Anderson's narration didn't feel honest. She didn't seem to acknowledge her part in the marital I wanted to like this book. Truly, I wanted to love it. I just couldn't. I don't necessarily have a problem with needing a trial separation from one's spouse. I can see why Anderson would've been angry when her husband came home one day and just said, 'I took a job out of state. We're moving.' For him to just presume something like that and demand she come with him was not ok in my book.

That said, Anderson's narration didn't feel honest. She didn't seem to acknowledge her part in the marital issues. She was trying to change the rules mid-game. It's no wonder her husband was flummoxed. I just prefer a flawed narrator to admit their flaws. Also, for a book that was supposed to be about self-discovery, she didn't come to any conclusions that are all that profound, or even useful. ...more
4

Oct 30, 2009

Loved this book by Joan Anderson, who wrote it while going through a difficult time in her relationship with her husband. She decided to move to their cottage by the sea to ponder. For a year. Hmm.... Honey, I need some time to ponder. I'll be back in a year. I don't know how many people do that, but still, she pondered, and she wrote a book. Her writing is beautiful.


I pull my knees to my chest, wrap my arms around my shins, and drink in the sweet, pungent aroma of driftwood as the sun, salt, Loved this book by Joan Anderson, who wrote it while going through a difficult time in her relationship with her husband. She decided to move to their cottage by the sea to ponder. For a year. Hmm.... Honey, I need some time to ponder. I'll be back in a year. I don't know how many people do that, but still, she pondered, and she wrote a book. Her writing is beautiful.


I pull my knees to my chest, wrap my arms around my shins, and drink in the sweet, pungent aroma of driftwood as the sun, salt, and sea are burned from it.
The wind creates a fickle flame that darts this way and that like fireflies. I'm
hypnotized by the blaze, seeing the burn of struggle, the dance of aliveness,
and knowing that the fire bears watching. I do not ever want the passion of my new ways to cool. The nourishment I feel can only be maintained if I stay close to
the elements - fire, air, water, earth. If I surround myself with them, I shall
always feel the stirrings of my soul.



I felt completely transported to another place while reading this book, like I took a year off and went to a cottage by the sea. Since I couldn't exactly do that, reading about it was the next best thing.

I love books that transport me, that make me feel like I'm with the author in the place she is describing - both physically and emotionally.


...more
4

Sep 05, 2013

I read this book over a period of about six months, picking it up and putting it down as the mood would strike. One thing I'm sure of is that this is not a story that will appeal to everyone, but for women of a certain age (you know who you are!) who have made sacrifices for their family (and who hasn't?) and now wonders who she is now...well, this narrative might touch something very deep inside. I could relate to Joan's story, with the fact that she didn't just want to blindly follow her I read this book over a period of about six months, picking it up and putting it down as the mood would strike. One thing I'm sure of is that this is not a story that will appeal to everyone, but for women of a certain age (you know who you are!) who have made sacrifices for their family (and who hasn't?) and now wonders who she is now...well, this narrative might touch something very deep inside. I could relate to Joan's story, with the fact that she didn't just want to blindly follow her husband on his next career-related move. What did she want, what did she need now at this point in her life? I've followed my husband on over 10 major (and many more minor) career-related moves, both domestic and international, and it is not something to be entered into lightly, without contemplation for all concerned. That she needed a break - from her husband, from her role as a caretaker and a mother - is not surprising. Her way of doing this was maybe a bit drastic, but it clearly worked for her, and, eventually, for her husband as well.

The writing was lovely, if somewhat strained and overworked during many passages. But I found enough of value in her thoughts to overlook the melodramatic style, and enjoyed spending the year with her. And am now having thoughts of spending some serious time by the sea myself, although maybe with my husband, not away from him! Highly recommended. ...more
3

Jun 12, 2018

There were times while I was reading this book that I wasn't sure I wanted to continue --luckily, for me, I got to the part where she strikes up a friendship with Joan Erickson--very advanced in age and full of wisdom to share. It was then, that Joan Anderson begins asking insightful questions about herself and her relationships.
5

Jan 11, 2012

I loved this book so much! Basically, I love any book about a middle aged strong woman who goes to the beach to find herself, like Anne Morrow Lindbergh and women in that vein.

Joan Anderson decides not to move cross country when her husband tells her he's gotten a new job. Instead she pauses and decides that if her marriage is going to be saved at any point in time she needs to be alone to find herself, so she heads to Cape Cod and lives with among the locals for a year. She has occasional I loved this book so much! Basically, I love any book about a middle aged strong woman who goes to the beach to find herself, like Anne Morrow Lindbergh and women in that vein.

Joan Anderson decides not to move cross country when her husband tells her he's gotten a new job. Instead she pauses and decides that if her marriage is going to be saved at any point in time she needs to be alone to find herself, so she heads to Cape Cod and lives with among the locals for a year. She has occasional moments of selfishness where her independence is threatened by visits from her husband and her family, but ultimately her time away from them allows her to return to them a stronger more fulfilled woman who has made many discoveries about herself.

I really identified with her in so many ways, her restless nature, high expectations of herself and others, need to find solace and aloneness in order to regroup, need to not have her identity be wrapped up in a man. And her tenacious nature to prove herself to the locals and to swim with seals was so inspiring. I hope I don't end up getting to a point in life where I need a year away from everyone I know, but I see the importance of taking the occasional weekend to be alone and have quiet moments with the self and with God, to re-identify with who you were created to be.

The book is lovely, a beautiful reminder that being alone is not always a bad thing and that being unfinished is part of life. ...more
4

May 17, 2009

I guess I'm glad to hear that so many of the reviewers have never been in a position to find themselves or feel that any of part of themselves has been lost. I on the other hand can see how a woman who has taken care of a husband and children for 20 years might not feel so in tuned with who she really is. Therefore I commend this woman for having the balls to leave and be alone for a year and really see what that's like. I think it's easier to stay in a marriage you are not happy with and I guess I'm glad to hear that so many of the reviewers have never been in a position to find themselves or feel that any of part of themselves has been lost. I on the other hand can see how a woman who has taken care of a husband and children for 20 years might not feel so in tuned with who she really is. Therefore I commend this woman for having the balls to leave and be alone for a year and really see what that's like. I think it's easier to stay in a marriage you are not happy with and forever feel like you should have done something else. At least she left, found out some things and then came back. ...more
2

Aug 10, 2016

My dissatisfaction with this book springs both from the writing itself and from the content. Ms. Anderson also writes children's books, which is perhaps why she takes the phrase "blurted out" seriously. I cannot. Her writing isn't unreadable, but it has a savor of the juvenile. Her verb choice is often overblown for drama's sake, and her metaphors are cliché. (For instance, from the third page: "[I] thought I'd fix his melancholia somehow, lifting him above the darkness he had grown so used to My dissatisfaction with this book springs both from the writing itself and from the content. Ms. Anderson also writes children's books, which is perhaps why she takes the phrase "blurted out" seriously. I cannot. Her writing isn't unreadable, but it has a savor of the juvenile. Her verb choice is often overblown for drama's sake, and her metaphors are cliché. (For instance, from the third page: "[I] thought I'd fix his melancholia somehow, lifting him above the darkness he had grown so used to carrying.") It's not that I mind recycled images - even the best writers use them - but I do mind that nothing beautiful or truthful is added to the discussion when Ms. Anderson pulls these out. She's just using them as filler for having to find words of her own. And they're all over the book.

As for the content: I went into this book wanting to like it. I like to learn alongside an author as she discovers something new about herself. But I don't think Ms. Anderson learned nearly as much as she thinks - or as much as she needed to.

She tells us she had to learn to be selfish, but I think she knew how to be selfish all along - she just didn't know how to say "no." You can be incredibly obliging and still be self-centered, pleasing people because you want them to turn around and - of their own volition and impulse - want to please you. I struggle with this myself. Ms. Anderson never really sees it, though, and she certainly doesn't address it. She thinks that she can cure the impulse by depriving herself of people to oblige, but that gives her no chance to practice re-modeling how she relates to others. She didn't take a cure, she took a break and I see backsliding in her future.

Furthermore, she's really judgmental (I say as I write criticism - yay!). There's one point at which she derides the "kept women" who come into the fish market - as if her husband wasn't paying her mortgage, as if she didn't go running to him first thing when the water heater broke and she didn't have the money to fix it. I was disgusted. She's on this island trying to recover from being exactly what these women are, as she smugly thinks about how miserable they must be and how sad it is that they don't think of going away by themselves. 1. Where is your compassion? 2. Maybe they can't. 3. Maybe they don't actually feel just like you - maybe they enjoy their lives. 4. If you're asking us not to judge you for abandoning your husband for an unspecified length of time, you really shouldn't be judging others.

There's more, but I won't go on - that should be enough to help you decide whether to read it or not. Not a balanced review, but this book left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don't recommend it. ...more
5

Aug 12, 2007

This is a great book! Joan Anderson has raised two grown sons and is in a stale marriage but not ready to give it up without looking deep inside herself. When her husband accepts a job that means they would have to move away and doesn't consult her first, she decides to pack up and move to their Cape Cod cottage for a year. This is a story of a woman who learns about herself, about life, and what is important to her. I've met Joan a couple of times and attended one of her mini-seminars...she's This is a great book! Joan Anderson has raised two grown sons and is in a stale marriage but not ready to give it up without looking deep inside herself. When her husband accepts a job that means they would have to move away and doesn't consult her first, she decides to pack up and move to their Cape Cod cottage for a year. This is a story of a woman who learns about herself, about life, and what is important to her. I've met Joan a couple of times and attended one of her mini-seminars...she's very insightful and not afraid to admit her own faults and shortcomings and to grow from them. ...more
4

Feb 17, 2018

A very good memoir by a woman coming of age at 50. She speaks not only to women who may want to explore after doing their societal duty but she spoke to me as a man who understands that life and meaning and becoming a person is forever a process. Within the book are characters who help her in her move forward; I particularly liked the older friend, also a Joan whose remarks show a life well lived. Among them was one about the only way of keeping one’s senses alive is to use them.
I read this on a A very good memoir by a woman coming of age at 50. She speaks not only to women who may want to explore after doing their societal duty but she spoke to me as a man who understands that life and meaning and becoming a person is forever a process. Within the book are characters who help her in her move forward; I particularly liked the older friend, also a Joan whose remarks show a life well lived. Among them was one about the only way of keeping one’s senses alive is to use them.
I read this on a weekend away from the city, enjoying the rhythms and solitude that come with overlooking the sea. A perfect place although one could just as easily access the book on a sofa curled up alone. I would recommend this book for anyone of a certain age who wants to renew their faith that living is a wonderful spiritual process of growth. ...more
3

Nov 17, 2017

I had mixed feelings about this book. It's perhaps best categorized as a "self-discovery memoir," which is a tricky genre, because the author always runs the risk of coming across as self-indulgent, and many readers will inevitably judge the author's choices accordingly. In this case, the author decided to confront her ongoing dissatisfaction with her life at middle age, when her husband announced he had found a new job and was moving across the country. She confronted the fact that she had been I had mixed feelings about this book. It's perhaps best categorized as a "self-discovery memoir," which is a tricky genre, because the author always runs the risk of coming across as self-indulgent, and many readers will inevitably judge the author's choices accordingly. In this case, the author decided to confront her ongoing dissatisfaction with her life at middle age, when her husband announced he had found a new job and was moving across the country. She confronted the fact that she had been putting everyone else's needs over her own for decades and decided to stay on her own in their Cape Cod beach cottage for a year.

For this sort of memoir to really work for me, it either needs to have humor, sparkling writing, interesting content beyond the author's journey, or--rarest of all--genuinely insightful observations. For example, Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison, about the author "finding herself" during an exotic yoga retreat, was freaking hilarious. The much maligned Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was rescued from mere naval-gazing by the author's self-deprecating humor and travel descriptions. Cheryl Strayed's Wild was well written and tapped into my vicarious longing to embark on a long hike such as the Pacific Crest Trail.

This book had some inspired moments (such as the chapter where the author spends a day on an island surrounded by seals), and her discussions of the short comings of her role as wife and mother did give me some food for thought. The author came of age in the 1950s, and was raised to think she must always cater to her husband and children's needs first and foremost, leaving very little left over for herself. As I read of her trying to rediscover her own longings, which had been so squelched that it took her a whole year to reawaken them, I was reminded of Friedan's Feminine Mystique and its depiction of the unfulfilled housewife and her "problem that has no name." I found myself comparing/contrasting her upbringing with the messages I received in my own formative years a few decades later (late 1980s/early 1990s and with far too much time watching MTV!): some things seemed different (for example, by my generation, the pervasive cult of workaholism had spread to both genders) and some depressingly the same (the body-shaming and mandate of thinness).

But this was not a sociology discussion on women's roles; it was a memoir of her own self-discovery, and as such, I have to admit it fell a little flat for me. Most of her insights seemed to float at the level of those found in a cheesy self-help book, although to give the author the benefit of a doubt, I'm sure that's a challenging writing project. (view spoiler)[And to those readers who have objected to the "selfishness" of Anderson's being separated from her husband for a year...at the end they reconciled and seemed to be happier with themselves and each other, so it seems it was the right decision for them. (hide spoiler)]

Bottom line: this book is on sale on kindle for $1.99 right now, and it wasn't a bad read for that price. I think maybe it would appeal most to women of Anderson's generation? As for myself, I thought she had some good points here and there, but overall, it seemed that some key ingredient was missing. (Maybe humor? The writing style was earnest to a fault.)

...more
5

Nov 02, 2019

A strange and unusual book that was the result of an extravagant foray in the second-hand bookstore. ‘A Year By The Sea’ is one woman’s sabbatical on an island by the sea. A sabbatical spent bathing with seals, digging up clams, and hoping that the plumbing and heating work.

When her marriage seems to be falling apart, Joan Anderson does what we would all like to do - take off to a cute cottage and reminiscence by the beach. If it were just that, I would have probably written something about ‘ A strange and unusual book that was the result of an extravagant foray in the second-hand bookstore. ‘A Year By The Sea’ is one woman’s sabbatical on an island by the sea. A sabbatical spent bathing with seals, digging up clams, and hoping that the plumbing and heating work.

When her marriage seems to be falling apart, Joan Anderson does what we would all like to do - take off to a cute cottage and reminiscence by the beach. If it were just that, I would have probably written something about ‘white privilege’ and not liked this book as much. But she does struggle - struggle to make a living, make money, and the book is an expression of these and the struggles of her mind as she tries to reconcile with her husband. There were passages were she seemed to speak what was in my mind and the passages were she spends time with the seals are probably the best part of the book. Made me miss the sea, this book. Made me miss it too much.
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4

Oct 25, 2009

Joan Anderson writes a beautiful memoir of a year in her life in which she struggles with her path and the changes she feels are necessary for her growth. Some people may view this book as a selfish and indulgent mid life crisis episode and others, including myself, may view it as a wonderful transformative experience to be envied and learned from. How you feel about this book is dependent on your view.
When her husband arrives home one day excited over the news that he has taken a new job in Joan Anderson writes a beautiful memoir of a year in her life in which she struggles with her path and the changes she feels are necessary for her growth. Some people may view this book as a selfish and indulgent mid life crisis episode and others, including myself, may view it as a wonderful transformative experience to be envied and learned from. How you feel about this book is dependent on your view.
When her husband arrives home one day excited over the news that he has taken a new job in another state, Joan decides that she would rather strike out on her own. Although not divorced the couple agree to separate, Joan moving into their Cape Cod residence and her husband moving to the new state to undertake the job.
What Joan discovers, is a new self, one that enjoys nature, being independant and a woman who is not afraid of new experiences. Each chapter relates to a season and in them, she describes her jobs, friends, problems and insights in an informal way that makes the reader feel as if she's sipping a cup of coffee and listening to Joan herself. In the end, the time apart from her husband enrichs their relationship in a way that is unexpected. A Year by the Sea is about the longing most people have to answer the question "What's life really all about?" Anderson chooses to act on this question and her life is beautifully chonicled in this little novel with a spirit that most of us can identify with. ...more
5

Apr 01, 2011

Lovely, poetic musings by a 50 year old who leaves her husband to find herself.

In two hours her husband, two sons and daughter's in law are arriving for Memorial Day weekend:

"Oh God, let me enjoy the pleasure of being graceful! As I gaze about the patio at the flowering perennials that endure year after year, I do myself a favor and recognize that I am no more or less than the perennial that provides the bulk of the lush backdrop for her family and those around her. It has taken years of Lovely, poetic musings by a 50 year old who leaves her husband to find herself.

In two hours her husband, two sons and daughter's in law are arriving for Memorial Day weekend:

"Oh God, let me enjoy the pleasure of being graceful! As I gaze about the patio at the flowering perennials that endure year after year, I do myself a favor and recognize that I am no more or less than the perennial that provides the bulk of the lush backdrop for her family and those around her. It has taken years of growing and expanding to become as colorful and abundant as I am. I'm not some hothouse flower, forced into bloom, but rather a ripened woman who is getting to know what she's about. There's no need for me to fret over the young seedlings.

My instinct is to approach the weekend as if I am treading water; keeping my body upright, watching the action, calling on my instincts, remaining centered, not going in one direction or another. I intend to listen more, talk less, receive whatever it is they offer, and then, like the woman I've become, let the ripe fruit fall where it may."


Words of a Navajo elder: "Listen to the muse when it's talking to you or it just goes on, and you miss it's statement - that moment when you could have done something." - I do this all the time with my arts and crafts. When I get an impulse I follow it! Now I know it's my muses! ...more
4

Oct 01, 2007

Reminded me of A Gift Frome the Sea in some ways. I really enjoyed this and especially loved the way she brought meaning into the every day things that we sometimes pass over too quickly. In some reviews I've read here some people didn't like the decision she mad at the end. I was good with that. It's ok to grow and still have your original essense be the core of attraction. In fact that is probably the best possible outcome. What I would have liked tho was for it to continue a little farther on Reminded me of A Gift Frome the Sea in some ways. I really enjoyed this and especially loved the way she brought meaning into the every day things that we sometimes pass over too quickly. In some reviews I've read here some people didn't like the decision she mad at the end. I was good with that. It's ok to grow and still have your original essense be the core of attraction. In fact that is probably the best possible outcome. What I would have liked tho was for it to continue a little farther on the timeline and experience how they were able to maintain the new selves together.
I just have say...I borrowed this from a friend who borrowed it from a friend. And when I finished I felt like there could not have been a better way to come by this book. It made me thankful for other women with whom to share this stage of life. Without even really saying anything, they know where your coming from. ...more
5

Jan 17, 2009

This book deserves 6 stars or more!!!!
This book was simply amazing and changed the way I look at my own life. This book caught my interest in the 1st page. Joan is married and has 2 boys, grown up and married with lives of their own. When her husband's new job calls to relocate, she surprises him as well as herself, and goes to New Haven, to their summer home. To think things out and find herself, taking a break from her marriage that has fallen to the wayside. Not following her husband, she at This book deserves 6 stars or more!!!!
This book was simply amazing and changed the way I look at my own life. This book caught my interest in the 1st page. Joan is married and has 2 boys, grown up and married with lives of their own. When her husband's new job calls to relocate, she surprises him as well as herself, and goes to New Haven, to their summer home. To think things out and find herself, taking a break from her marriage that has fallen to the wayside. Not following her husband, she at 1st thinks she made a rash decision. After a few weeks of losing touch with the outside world, one morning she runs out of coffee and heads to the local fisherman hangout to grab a hot cup of kindness. This simple act changes her life for the better. Please go pick up this book if you are a woman. There is so much that we forget about ourselves and Joan Anderson hit the nail in the head with this small wonder of a book. ...more
4

Aug 23, 2011

A few times in my life, I have read exactly the right book at exactly the right moment. This summer was that moment for this book. A writer, who is around 50 years old, takes a year off from her normal life to rediscover herself and to find her new calling. Some of my favorite moments are when she swims with the seals, when she walks in the fog, and when she figures out how to finance urgently needed roof repairs. Joan Anderson asks, "Doesn't change occur only when we stop living the expected A few times in my life, I have read exactly the right book at exactly the right moment. This summer was that moment for this book. A writer, who is around 50 years old, takes a year off from her normal life to rediscover herself and to find her new calling. Some of my favorite moments are when she swims with the seals, when she walks in the fog, and when she figures out how to finance urgently needed roof repairs. Joan Anderson asks, "Doesn't change occur only when we stop living the expected life?" As I begin my own year by a sea, I am hoping the answer to her question is "Yes!" ...more
4

Jul 08, 2019

After reading a number of reviews of this book here on Goodreads, I have come to the conclusion that either you will love it or you will hate it. I think which reaction you will have depends a great deal on how old you are and what your life experience is currently like. If you are age forty or under, or if you have never been married, it is possible this is not the book for you - at this time. If you are fifty or over, and if you've been married for a number of years, I think you might find it After reading a number of reviews of this book here on Goodreads, I have come to the conclusion that either you will love it or you will hate it. I think which reaction you will have depends a great deal on how old you are and what your life experience is currently like. If you are age forty or under, or if you have never been married, it is possible this is not the book for you - at this time. If you are fifty or over, and if you've been married for a number of years, I think you might find it more appealing.

Since I celebrated my sixty-sixth birthday less than two weeks ago, and I have been married to the same man for thirty-nine years, I identified closely with Joan Anderson's experiences - not necessarily her experiences with the natural world, but her exploration of herself and her psyche. Yes, "finding herself." What so many people don't understand until they get there is the phrase "empty nest" is a simplistic name for a very complicated time in a parent's life, whether female or male. You are no longer needed in a parental role, and you may not have many opportunities to act as a grandparent, since your child or children may live hundreds or even more than a thousand miles away. If you have a career, you are nearing retirement. Your life is changing in a myriad of ways. All the labels you have given yourself over your lifetime are fading, and you now have a chance to try to remember who you used to be, and to figure out which changes your life experiences have made are positive and which ones you need to let go of.

That is what Joan did in her year by the sea. Rather than giving a standard review of the book, I am going to insert a few quotes from it. If the quotes appeal to you, you will probably enjoy the book. If they don't, wait twenty years or so and then pick up the book again. Or don't. Reader's choice.

In the first quote, Joan has discovered a box of photographs from when she was a child. Her family moved nineteen times during her childhood, which is why she speaks of "being displaced."

Being displaced time and again must contribute to a deep inner displacement, so that after a while familiar images and values all but slip away. I saw in those pictures that I fitted in and survived by being what those around me wanted me to be, leaving the real me by the wayside with permanent scars on her self-confidence. I need to grab her by the hand and make up for lost time, or at least honor her determination and stubbornness - attributes that she displays in the pictures.

Is it any wonder that Joan needed to "find herself"? By the time she got married, she had been through so many changes in her life, she hardly knew who she was any more. After years of being a wife and a mother, suddenly the roles she has taken on are taken away. Her children are gone and her husband has decided to go - without consulting Joan - to a place she does not wish to go.

Doesn't change occur only when we stop living the expected life? For sure, marriage, like any other institution, cannot contain and should not restrain anyone. Hell, every marriage needs community relief. How could one partner, no matter how remarkable, be everything to the other? It's ludicrous to believe so. I've no choice now but to fall in love as soon as possible - not with a man but with my immediate life and eventually myself. I'm free to make my own decisions and equally free to take the consequences. For once to be harsh, indifferent, unfeeling is liberating. At the very least, being so permits me to cultivate the other half of my whole. So I've declared my freedom and am somewhat at peace with it. What's left is to make sure there's no residual guilt.

A note: If you can't imagine feeling indifferent toward your partner, you can't have been married (or together) for very long. Over the thirty-nine years I've been married, I've fallen in and out of love with my husband more times than I can count.

After Joan's husband has come to visit her at the cottage for Christmas, they have the following conversation.

I've come to believe that love happens when you want it to. It is an intention, rather than a serendipitous occurrence. Only when one is open to receive and absorb love can it occur.

"You know, I'm beginning to think that real growing only begins after we've done the adult things we're supposed to do," I say.

"Like what?" he asks.

"Working, raising a family, doing community things - all that stuff that keeps you from your real self, the person you've left behind."

"So . . . ?" he asks, waiting for more.

"I don't ever want to be finished. Now that I'm catching on to real living . . . the formlessness of it . . . "

He doesn't understand the concept of unfinished, nor does he see it as a positive word. Part of him wants to be finished, away from his dull job and the need to collect the weekly paycheck. He wants to have that behind him. And yet, what would he be without that definition? This is what he finds scary.

"We're as unfinished as the shoreline upon this beach," I tell him. "Isn't that exciting? Up until now we've done what everyone else wanted us to do, and now it's our turn. I hope to continue to transcend myself as long as I live."

For the record, by the end of the book, Joan's husband has decided to retire and join her at the beach cottage, and Joan is happy about his decision. The separation has given both of them a chance not only to "find themselves" but to re-find each other.

Acceptance seems the biggest stretch that newly independent people must extend to one another. It is a strength I must acquire, or risk being estranged from the ebb and flow of the rest of my life. Like the tides that come and go at their will, not ours, we who frequent the beach must be mindful to time our swims and walks to the ocean's law. So it should be with the people who move in and through our lives.

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5

Sep 30, 2017

I loved this little memoir and will miss communing with Anderson by the sea. I could identify with her completely--in fact we're the same age and stage in our lives. A little introspection was exactly what I was in the mood for. Thank you for a beautiful book.

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