Synopses & Reviews
Shortly after arriving on Cape Cod to spend a year by herself, Joan Anderson’s chance encounter with a wise, playful, and astonishing woman helped her usher in the transformations and self-discoveries that led to her ongoing renewal. First glimpsed as a slender figure on a fogged-in beach, Joan Erikson was not only a friend and confidante when one was most needed, but also a guide as Anderson stretched and grew into her unfinished self.
Joan Erikson was perhaps best known for her collaboration with her husband, Erik, a pioneering psychoanalyst and noted author. After Erik’s death, she wrote several books extending their theory of the stages of life to reflect her understanding of aging as she neared ninety-five. But her wisdom was best taught through their friendship; as she sat with Anderson, weaving tapestries of their lives with brightly colored yarn while exploring the strength gathered from their accumulated experiences, Joan Erikson’s lessons took shape on their small cardboard looms as well as in her friend’s revitalized life.
In writing about their extraordinary friendship, Anderson reveals a need she didn’t know she had: for a mentor to help navigate the transitions she faced as she grew beyond middle age. And when Joan Erikson had to face her husband’s death and the growing limitations of her own body, Anderson was able to give back some of the wisdom she had gleaned. To this poignant, joyful account, Joan Anderson brings the candor and sensitivity that have made her an acclaimed speaker and writer on midlife and its possibilities. A Walk on the Beach is an experience to savor and treasure, a glimpse of the exuberant spirit that can be sustained and passed on in all our friendships.
"In A Year by the Sea and An Unfinished Marriage, Anderson shared her account of taking a break from her marriage and spending a year of solitude at the beach. Now, she introduces the inspiring woman she befriended during that time: Joan Erikson, wife of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. After a chance meeting in their Cape Cod town, the women found their stories one woman was purposefully apart from her husband; the other was adjusting to her husband's deteriorating health and imminent death resonated significantly. Erikson's enthusiasm for life prompted Anderson to re-evaluate her own marriage and her role as she aged through the life stages that were the subject of Erikson's published writing, coauthored with her famous husband. Erikson reminded Anderson of the importance of continuing to learn, grow, change and, most notably, play as one ages, to be surprised by life and where it leads. She explained, '[A]s long as we are alive, we must keep transforming ourselves.' Through the death of Erikson's husband and the return of Anderson's, readers see the women cheer each other's efforts to view the world with a fresh eye each day. While Anderson's experiences may ring familiar to readers of her earlier works, this is much more Erikson's story and philosophy, and for readers, every encounter with her is as much a treat as it was for Anderson, who wrote of her friend, 'it was [she] who made me new, or at least [she] pushed me toward the brink.' Agent, Liv Blumer. (On sale Apr. 13) Forecast: Anderson's memoir should be popular among married women. Sales will benefit from an eight-city author tour and ads in the New York Times." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In the third book of growth and exploration, Anderson completes an inspiring and revealing trilogy of renewal at midlife. Just as she did in "A Year by the Sea" and "An Unfinished Marriage," she brings her candor and sensitivity to the relatively uncharted waters of midlife and its possibilities.
Reading Group Guide
Joan Anderson's strength, insight, and sheer audacity in taking a year for herself, away from her husband and family, have made her an inspiration to the countless women who have read her books and attended her seminars. Her year by the sea and its astonishing benefits were enriched by her friendship with Joan Erikson, whose wisdom and spirit inspired so many of Anderson's adventures - including the adventure of writing her first memoir, A Year by the Sea
. Readers of that book and An Unfinished Marriage
will recognize Erikson as a trusted friend and confidante, but in A Walk on the Beach
the reader can experience firsthand Erikson's infectious spirit and zeal for the magic of daily adventures.
1. Is there anyone in your life whom you would consider a personal mentor? Do you fill this role for anyone else? Do you believe that these relationships are more important at some points in your life?
2. Do you think that age necessarily makes one wiser?
3. Joan Erikson demonstrated her ideas about life through weaving, and she remained a dancer throughout her life. Is there a craft or activity that you practice that involves your spirit as well as your body?
4. Our culture places a high premium on youth. What have you gained - and lost - throughout the years? What skills or advantages do you expect to grow in as you grow older?
5. On page 106, Anderson remarks, "There is no lost future. The life I might have lived is beginning to take hold." Is there a future that you believed you lost that you could move towards?
6. As Anderson watches a young couple's wedding, she feels a mixture of nostalgia and skepticism about her own vows. Through the years, how have your own views of marriage and partnership changed?
7. How do you anticipate that your later years will be different from those of your parents or grandparents?
8. Do you believe that a person's sense of her age, or even her outlook or behavior, can affect the length and quality of life? Can we live longer and "younger" by keeping mentally and physically active?
9. What is the best advice a friend has ever given you? What do you think is the best advice you can give based on your experience?