Seven days after his mother dies in a sudden, senseless accident, seventeen-year-old Will embarks on a search for meaning that leads him to the great philosophers—Plato, Seneca, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche—and to Taryn, the beautiful girl he meets at his mother’s wake. Will is desperate to find, however he can, something authentic, something ultimate, something so true he would live or die for it. But is he willing to risk losing Taryn—losing everything--to seek the answers he craves? (from Amazon)
I really enjoyed reading The Beginner's Guide to Living. It starts out with a depressing subject - the death of Will's mother - but doesn't make it overly sappy. It shows the hurt and sadness that Will and his family feel, but it doesn't trivialize their grief by trying to get an emotion out of the reader. I don't know if I'm making any sense, but you know how there are scenes in movies that are only there to make everyone get teary eyed and cry? Almost like they're there on purpose? Well, this book doesn't do this, which I love. I didn't cry, I didn't even get remotely close to that, but I still felt a profound sadness. Because it is a terrible thing to lose a mother, but the last thing I want is to get unnecessarily weepy.
Saying that, Will goes on a journey to discover the meaning of life. He starts reading the work of a lot of different philosophers (if you love quotes like I do, you'll find some great ones in here). I was fascinated by Will's research because it's pretty deep for a seventeen-year-old; I think a lot of people wonder about life and death and everything in between but don't really do anything to find some answers. It was also interesting for me because I have an Eastern philosophies class, so some of the things Will read I've learned about. I love making connections between things I read and things I've learned or seen somewhere else.
Will gets into a relationship with a quirky girl named Taryn, so besides his existential crisis, Will is researching on the meaning of love, which brought some happiness and lightness into the book. Their relationship was sweet, even though it seemed a way for Will to fill the void that was left when his mother died.
Another thing I loved about this book was that it was set in Australia. You could hardly tell, since I think some things and the spellings were translated, but there are some cultural differences, like the drinking age, that were fun to point out. I like learning about different cultures, even ones that are somewhat similar to American culture.
Once again, I really enjoyed The Beginner's Guide to Living. I thought it was a pretty deep book and not at all fluffy (not that there's anything wrong with fluff, but sometimes you got to throw in some serious stuff too). One other thing, I loved that there were photographs in the book that coincided with photographs that Will was taking. So cool!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
FTC: Provided through the Henry Holt InGroup review program.
2010/Farrar, Straus, Giroux/232 pages.