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A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman

A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman

4.4 45
by Joan Anderson

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Life is a work in progress, as unfinished and ever-changing as the sandy shoreline along the beach. A Year by the Sea is the entrancing story of how one woman emerged from a stagnant period, finding the energy to renew her marriage and the courage to persevere in the living of an unfettered life.


Life is a work in progress, as unfinished and ever-changing as the sandy shoreline along the beach. A Year by the Sea is the entrancing story of how one woman emerged from a stagnant period, finding the energy to renew her marriage and the courage to persevere in the living of an unfettered life.

Editorial Reviews

Most of us have daydreamed of leaving behind the rat race and escaping to a private retreat; at the age of 50, Joan Anderson did it. When her husband was offered a job in another state, she declined to follow him, instead moving into their summer house at Cape Cod to appraise and assess her life to that point. A Year by the Sea will especially appeal to women of a certain age who, having devoted a good portion of their lives to raising children and running a household, now find themselves wondering how to spend their golden years.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"I'm beginning to think that real growing only begins after we've done the adult things we're supposed to do," confides Anderson, a journalist and author of children's books (Twins on Toes, etc.). She came to this conclusion after a year living alone in a cottage on Cape Cod. Feeling that her marriage had stagnated by the time her two sons were grown, Anderson surprised and distressed her husband by refusing to move out-of-state with him when he accepted a new job. In this accessible memoir, she shares the joy and self-knowledge she found during her time of semi-isolation. In order to supplement the income from her royalty checks, she found a job in the local fish market and began making new friends who sustained her. After her hot water heater broke down and her husband refused to help, she earned the additional money for the repair by digging and selling clams. Through vivid and meticulous observations about the natural world, Anderson makes clear her strong affinity for the ocean, with its changing tides, subtle colors and burgeoning life. A Memorial Day reunion brought Anderson and her husband closer; shortly thereafter she embraced his plan to retire and live with her in the cottage. Anderson has recently begun a "Weekend by the Sea" program for women who need time to reflect. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Curling up with this autobiography will refresh readers' souls and adjust their attitudes. With their two sons grown and married, Anderson and her husband decided to take a "vacation" from their long marriage. Her husband moved on to a new job hundreds of miles away, while Anderson cocooned herself in her rusting Volvo and drove to her family's cottage on Cape Cod. During the year-long separation, Anderson reestablished her connection to nature and was able to discover new hope. She swam with seals, ran a marathon, worked in a fish market, and earned extra income clamming--activities that gave her the opportunity to shed her image as family nurturer and allowed her to grow as an independent woman. After a Memorial Day reunion, her husband retired from his job to live with Anderson on Cape Cod. Anderson's story reminds readers not to overlook their personal needs when providing for family members. This is a good choice for discussion and a companion piece to Anne Morrow Lindbergh's classic Gift from the Sea.--Joyce Sparrow, St. Petersburg P.L., FL
Kirkus Reviews
A touchy-feely finding-oneself memoir by a midlife woman who took a year off from her unfulfilling marriage and spent it in reflection by the sea. Anderson, a 50-year-old journalist and author of children's books (Harry's Helicopter,1990; 1787, 1987; etc.), refused to follow her husband when his job transferred him to another state, choosing instead to move alone to their summer cottage on Cape Cod and take stock of her life and marriage. Comparisons with Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea are inevitable: both are by women concerned with the creative life, both express a closeness to nature at the seashore, a kinship with other life forms, a response to the ebb and flow of the tides, and both find metaphors in seashells. However, whereas Lindbergh has only a brief holiday at the beach and finds universal themes, Anderson's sojourn is protracted and her focus narrow. Alone, she is self-reliant and self-conscious, adventurous, resourceful, and open. Not all her time is spent in solitude, however: she works in a fish market for extra money, finds a mentor and companion in the widow of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, has house guests, including an old friend, a psychoanalyst, and a priest, hires on as short-term cook for a nephew's film crew, and entertains her husband, sons, and daughters-in-law over Memorial Day. At the year's end, she is more certain of who she is and what she wants. She is ready to live once again with her husband, not in the old stale marriage, but in a new and still-to-be-defined one. A less-than-enthralling journey of self-discovery marred by more than a touch of self-congratulation. .

Product Details

Cengage Gale
Publication date:
Core Ser.
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.53(h) x 0.94(d)

Meet the Author

Joan Anderson is the author of numerous children's novels, as well as Breaking the TV Habit. A Year by the Sea is her first venture into narrative nonfiction and her most personal work to date. Anderson lives with her husband on Cape Cod, where she conducts her popular "Year by the Sea" workshops.

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A Year by the Sea 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this memoir in one evening, not because it is gripping (it is not) but because it is short. I found myself praying that the shallow insights, endless banal metaphors, and self-absorbed ramblings of a privileged and narcissistic woman would finally lead to some useful insights. Perhaps, I thought, the author will be magically transformed into someone with whom I could actually enjoy spending an hour. I was disappointed. Joan Anderson writes of her own 'journey of self-discovery.' She comes off as a whiny wealthy woman who has spent her adult life gazing at her reflection in her husband, her sons, her work, and her friends. At the age of fifty, she does not like what she sees, or perhaps she simply doesn't want to recognize herself any longer. She escapes to her second home on Cape Cod for a year to indulge herself and make herself the center of her world - with no petty distractions such as family, friends, community, or responsibilities. In every person, task, tide, seashell, snowfall, seal, and grain of sand Anderson comes across, she again seeks (and finds) her reflection. She spends this year creating metaphors for herself. (I think I counted five on one page!) and smugly congratulating herself for her now open and conscious self-absorption. By the end of the year, she likes what she sees--so much so that she now offers workshops to help other women discover themselves. Many women have found this to be a life-changing book. I was not one of them. Perhaps I just could not identify with Anderson, and I guess I'm a little relieved by this. As the Kirkus review concludes, 'A less-than-enthralling journey of self-discovery marred by more than a touch of self-congratulation.' Pass on this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am not an avid reader, but 'A Year By The Sea' has opened up my mind to search for more knowledge. After reading this book I realize that we should never stop searching out who we are today and who we are yet to be. As we seek answers to our unanswered questions of life we are growing and learning more about the person we are deep within. I believe, Joan, with all her courage to find out who she really is speaks volumes of hope for everyone. Never stop looking for your dream because anything is possible.
barbiel57 More than 1 year ago
A Year by the Sea; the author’s personal record of a stale marriage and the process of self-discovery. The author walked us through the year it took for her to rediscover her true potential. Many women devoted to their family for years lose a bit of their true self and personal strenghts. This story reminds us of the need to expose ourselves to the opportunity of self-discovery and to release the untapped resources within ourselves.
Maroonbell More than 1 year ago
I found this little book at a second-hand shop and was drawn to it because the title reminded me of Mrs. Lindbergh's book, "Gift From the Sea" which I had read and enjoyed. I've never stepped away from my life for a year -- most women don't have that option. But I very much relate to the need to step away and have done so for a few days here and there, or just a few hours -- taking a drive or a walk just to think, pray and be alone. I don't think I could have left my husband for as long as she did even if I could have, but everyone's journey is different. In the end, Joan became a better person for her experience and so did her husband. If her story can help other women in the same boat, then I'm glad she has shared it. I thought the experiences she had and the lessons learned were so important and meaningful. Too many people go through life pulled from one event or demand to another, rarely taking inventory of their lives. If you don't, how will you know if you've gotten off course and how will you correct it? Your life is controlling you instead of the other way around, if you never pay attention to the undercurrent in your life. I loved this book and am getting ready to dive into more of Joan's books!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I almost hate to assign stars to this book - it may, after all, be just the ticket for someone else. I personally don¿t like the book because it has some important underlying premises that the author has not examined. Anderson calls us to be spontaneous and not worry about other people¿s expectations: if she wants to meet people who have REALLY lived by that standard, she should visit prisons and homeless shelters. Her advice is suitable for her husband and herself given that he was willing and able to retire and live with her on Cape Cod, presumably with a pension that will support them in an acceptable lifestyle. How about her sons, whom she says have been raised to go for the brass ring? You don¿t generally get that by ignoring other people¿s opinions and living spontaneously. Her friend Joan Erikson tells her that people should only work at things they enjoy, anything else is a dead-end, no matter how well paid. This assumes that everyone has a clear vocation that will conveniently support them in the style to which they wish to be accustomed, or which is so fascinating that they will be unconcerned about their material circumstances as long as they follow their dream. This is a very popular fiction in our society, but about as realistic as waiting for Prince Charming to come along in his shining armor. The struggles of the working poor or the necessary compromises to pursue the varied goals of life, including living with other people in a family must be firmly ignored to believe in this happy vision. Being a single woman, responsible for her own support, I don¿t find my job fulfilling, but I do find it remunerative, and since I have to provide myself with food and shelter, I can¿t lightly give it up. I also feel compelled to point out that Anderson has not considered her husband¿s point of view. The premise here is that she has smothered her own needs in order to attend to those of her family, including her husband¿s career. Has it ever occurred to her that her husband felt that he was smothering all HIS needs to pursue a career that will support his family?
Lori2013 More than 1 year ago
This book is, by far, my favorite book. I read it each year and find something different in it each time I read it. A Year By The Sea is one woman's honest story about reaching a plateau in life and how she steps outside the norm in an attempt to rediscover herself. She speaks for those of us who are grateful for the blessings we have been given, but also for the part of ourselves that have been forgotten and buried. Thank you so much, Joan, for sharing with us.
faithfulmom More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book. I was hesitant because her and I have such different tastes when it comes to books. I'm a mid-forties, middle class woman, married in a happy to dull marriage. This book is amazing! It's hard to believe how Joan Anderson unzipped my head crawled inside and read my thoughts and feeling and then crawled back out and wrote this book! THIS BOOK WILL ENLIGHTEN ANY WOMAN and make you reevaluate your life (in a good way) and at the same time make you feel understood....and isn't that what we all want. It's only 147 pages and an easy read. It is worth the money and your time. I guarantee it!
momoftwobys More than 1 year ago
Though I am not quite as old as Joan Anderson when she embarks on a journey to rediscover herself, I can completely relate to her need to redefine herself beyond the confines of "mother" and "wife". I admired her courage and her honesty. There's a lot that women of all ages and walks of life can learn from Ms. Anderson's account of her search to find herself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An important book for us women who are so good at giving to others and not to and for ourselves. Not everyone will find their way the Joan did but I'm so grateful she stumbled and fought her way through. Her courage en-couraged me to reach, to try and to stretch. Bless you Joan Anderson for all you've given so many.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I ran into this book during a break up three years ago. This is the book that helped me get through that break up. Only in my mid 20's, I took the much needed time to be alone and put the past in perspective. I had been worrying about the other person's needs the 2 long years I was in the relationship and in return received nothing but heartache. It gave me courage to move on and explore the interests that I had abandoned. More importantly, I once again became independent. When I moved a month ago, I found the book in a box and read it for the second time-although my situation now is much different. I am happily married to a wonderful man. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel: An Unfinished Marriage. I recommend this book to everyone, regardless of age.
Lyn52 More than 1 year ago
I didn't particularly care for this book. It seemed to just fill the pages like one fills a day when you don't really have anything to do. Parts were interesting, but overall, it just seemed rather ordinary and non-productive. I think I was looking for a story with more enlightening experiences. I'm glad for the author that she felt she made personal progress, but it seemed to me more that she just took a needed and extended vacation from her daily life. We all need those times of re-evaluating our lives from time to time, I suppose. I would like more concrete realizations as the outcome, however.
Tfuller1 More than 1 year ago
What an awakening Joan Anderson can inspire! Her journey speaks to all women who have questioned their purpose. By purpose, I do not mean the purpose our loved ones and society has customized us to believe is our life's purpose; but of our personal endevor that makes up the solitary journey through life's phases. She inspires the freedom and courage to look into our very core for the talent, strength, and joy that makes us all individually unique and beautiful. She shares with the reader her personal journey to find meaning in "her" life and by coincidence crosses paths with the spouse of one of the most influential experts in behavorial science. She freely shares the wisdom with the reader and if the reader listens closely she will notice a subtle change in the way she views herself, the way she approaches life and suddenly the yearning will awaken to discover what indeed makes each one of us individually unique. The truly unique aspect of this series of books is that you can see yourself in these life stages or transistions regardless of where you are at today. The enlightenment will inspire you to begin your own personally unique jouney.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book very though provoking. It was an well written quick read. I would have loved to do the same when I was that age. I would like to read the next two books in the series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book so much that I give it to friends who turn 50. The self-discovery that Joan Anderson goes through is inspiring for women of any age.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Of course we can't all run off and sit by the sea and take stock of our lives, but this book, by example, makes a very good argument for doing it. Indeed, for me it acted as both proxy and catalyst. As the author progresses toward her epiphany, the sensitive reader will enjoy or be confronted by a similar experience. Reading YEAR BY THE SEA is like a long conversation. Every man should read this book, if only to learn that the human mind and heart is built on some beautiful and bewildering universals. Likewise, I think women will really enjoy a beautofully written book called IN THE GHOST COUNTRY, about a man who finds haunting, beautiful and sometimes bitter company in his memories as he struggles through a lonely journey to the bottom of the world. Pure poetry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book last year during my 48th year and loved it. I am rereading it now and am getting even more insight from it. I wish the author had included more information about her past, but any woman can relate to Joan's search for her authentic self. Due to the influence of this book, I have decided to take a few days and go to the beach by myself, something I would never have thought of doing before.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thank you Joan Anderson for your GREAT courage of opting for the unexpected and then for sharing it generously with all of us. I truly appreciate being shown that day-by-day growing without knowing the future, is safe and loving. She has given women a great gift and the long-term husbands I have shared this book with, have also appreciated being given a glimpse of what their wives might be experiencing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most wonderful books that I have ever read. While I loved every word of the book, I was especially spell bound reading about her visit with the seals. It was magic. A grand book to set your compass and travel through life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Because of where I am in my own life, this book absolutely hit as close to home as one could get. The book makes you want to go and get away from everything and fill the need of doing and experiencing the things that Joan did. I am obsessed now with finding other books along the same line and I have ordered several. I will definitely read this book again in 6 months to boost my independence once again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed her sharing a very difficult time in her life. She helps us all understand the need to continue to grow, all our lives. That feelings and searching should not be squelched, but relished, and nourished. That dealing with life issues constructively helps us become more completed, emotionally healthy people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
redhat More than 1 year ago
This should be required reading for all women ... tempts me to go live by the sea for a year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book which delves into a woman letting go of the past and finding herself should be read by every woman who has questioned her life and the direction she is taking. It is a comfortable book to read as "Joan" moves from a stagnant, predictable life to a solitary existence. Her adventures and those she meets during her year alone are inspiring. For me, the book opened up new avenues of thinking about my experiences and what I anticipate for my future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good, quick book. Interesting perspective on someone going through life changes. I'd recommend for anyone to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago