Title: Everyone is Beautiful
Author: Katherine Center
Genre: Modern fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
First line: The day I decided to change my life, I was wearing sweatpants and an old oxford of Peter’s with a coffee stain down the front.
I have seen Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center reviewed on many blogs, and I’ve yet to see a bad review. In fact, most of the bloggers said they absolutely loved it. I am always a little hesitant to read a book that is getting so many positive reviews, because it has been put on a little book pedestal and I’ll be horribly disappointed if I don’t think it’s as wonderful as everyone else did. But then I was lucky enough to win an ARC from S. Krishna’s Books, and then 5 Minutes for Books announced a joint online bookclub discussion on June 2nd, so I knew I had to read it soon.
I am so very happy to say that Everyone is Beautiful is still on its little book pedestal. I devoured this book. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I’m a little tongue-tied (or shoud I say finger-tied since I’m typing?) when it comes to writing a review. Reading this book reminded me of a particularly delightful reading experience last summer, Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos. Both authors have a particularly deft way with words, especially when it comes to writing characters.
You probably need a bit of background to understand why this book hit home so hard for me. In November of 2001, on week before Thanksgiving, I gave birth to our fourth child, Josiah. Our oldest, Natalie, was one month shy of 5 years old. So I had a 4 year old daughter, a 3 year old son, a 2 year old son, and a newborn son. The period of time between September 1999, when I had our third child 15 months after our second (and had three in diapers) until our youngest was potty-trained is pretty much a blur of sleepless nights, colds and ear infections and stomach flus, diaper changes and potty-training, doctor’s visits and sippy cups and matchbox cars and fingerprint-smudged walls and diaper bags and…and….and. All of you mothers know exactly what I’m talking about.
Katherine Center has perfectly captured those days of early motherhood. I can remember having the exact thoughts and feelings that Lanie experiences. She is a young mother of three boys, ages 4 and under. She has just moved from Houston, Texas to Cambridge, Massachusetts so that her husband can work toward an advance degree in musical composition. She has left behind in Houston everything that is familiar and safe, including her parents. Her husband, Peter, is consumed with his studies and his music students, and Lanie feels more alone than she ever has in her life. Only she’s not alone; she’s never alone. She’s constantly swarming with three little boys whose needs are constant and demands are immediate.
Lanie decides that it is time to make a change and to try to find the woman that she used to be – if she even exists anymore. The only question is, can she carve out something for herself without hurting her children or her marriage?
There is so much to this book – it is hilariously funny, but not fluffy. It has wonderful female characters that are experiencing loss and grief and changes, and yet are facing them with strength and dignity. I loved Amanda and Nora and Lanie, and I was rooting for each one of them. And it also has an underlying theme of beauty. What is beauty? Is beauty the same as perfection? Can we still be beautiful, strong, vibrant women even after we’ve had one, two, three, four, or more children, changed thousands of diapers, gained weight, lost youth, watched body parts give in to gravity?
I will leave you with the definition of 5 stars in my personal book rating scale: It was brilliant and you should read it immediately – in fact, everyone should.