Today’s book review comes from Dawn, our newest staff reviewer over at 5 Minutes for Books. She invites you to visit her at my thoughts exactly, if you’re a fan of cute kids or random thoughts, which both appear in abundance on her blog.
Have you ever found yourself gulping down the words from a book at an alarming rate because you no longer have any sense of the actual world around you? Have you ever connected with a fictional character in such a way that you think there’s possibly an eerie force at nature that led you to the book in the first place? Have you ever had trouble actually seeing the print on the page because of the massive amount of tears streaming down your face? I can honestly answer yes to all of the above about Katherine Center’s new novel, Everyone is Beautiful.
This is the story of Lanie, the mom to three young boys and the wife to a composer trying to make his mark on the profession, who is literally beginning a new chapter of her life at the onset of the story, moving her family from Texas to Massachusetts to support the aspiring career of her husband. Notice how that description mentions nothing particularly personal about Lanie?
Yeah, so would she, because that’s what she’s realizing her life has become– who she is can only be defined in relation to the people around her. A mother. A wife. That’s the scope of her life, and she has trouble recalling the self she used to be before these new identities took top billing in her life. An epiphany of sorts results, triggered by being asked the worst possible question ever by a stranger, leading her to add “change your life” to the top of her never ending to-do list (Ever been asked when you were due… when you weren’t pregnant anymore? Oh yes, worst possible question ever.) She soon comes to find that she may have changed more than she bargained for.
You could call this novel a treatise on modern day motherhood, parenting and marriage all wrapped up in an entertaining and wholly believable contemporary story. I’m drawn to fictional works that portray women and mothers in all their glory, often struggling with the messes that come with regular life and trying to find their particular path in it all. (Oh yes, I am what I read.) This book definitely had that overarching theme, but there was something else. I’m not even sure that I can put my finger firmly on it, but I’ve read enough novels in my day to know that this one was different.
Perhaps I come to this novel with certain characteristics that made me predisposed to connecting with it– I also have three young children, I also have a love/hate relationship with my own body, I also find myself often wondering what happened to the ‘me’ I used to be… but I think it was even more than that. The voice of Lanie speaks with such ferocity when she describes the fear that mothers live with about the vulnerability of their children’s lives, or the drudgery that can so easily swallow a marriage when you are surrounded by young children, or the physical imperfections that are an undeniable fact of life. Lanie goes beyond simply being a realistic character- as I turned the last pages, I felt as if I lived this story, instead of just spending the last day consuming it in a few extended sittings.
This book will find a very special place on my bookshelf, and it is definitely shooting to the top of the list of the books I (annoyingly) tell my friends they just have to read. Far be it from me to tell you, people whom I’ve never met, what to read… but I think you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. If I’ve sold you on this book, you can head over to 5 Minutes for Books to see the video trailer to get just a tiny taste of what this wonderful novel has to offer.
Please leave a comment to win one of three SIGNED copies of Everyone is Beautiful. We’ll announce the winners in next week’s column. This contest is void where prohibited and subject to our terms and conditions.
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Edited by Susan to Add:
You’ll love these videos featuring the book: