A few times a year, I react strongly to a book. Sometimes, I identify completely with the main character. Sometimes, I find the plot to be absolutely intoxicating. Sometimes, I find myself smitten with the secondary and peripheral characters, the setting, the humor, or the author's enticing way with words. In this particular situation, all of the above apply to Katherine Center's newest novel, Everyone is Beautiful.
When my latest Early Reviewer ARC arrived in the mail from Random House this past Friday, I was not particularly impressed. Another chick lit, I figured. Center's book was tossed onto the "To Be Read" stack, only to be picked up again a few hours later. While waiting for the coffee to percolate, I flipped to the first page and was immediately ensnared. I forewent all obligations and consumed the novel that evening.
Center's novel takes readers on a wild ride of emotions and ideas, ranging from laugh-out-loud humor and excitement, to varying shades of sobbing sadness and weeping happiness. Elena, the heroine and mother of three young boys, is far from average. Elena, as well as the novel's other characters, express a deepness of thought and opinion that elevates the story far above the stereotype-ridden chick-lit genre. Beneath the veneer of a rite-of-passage romantic comedy is Center's simmering discussion of what makes a person beautiful. In addition, the characters deal with issues including the struggles of parenting, loss of loved ones, and fears of the loss of identity.
Everyone is Beautiful has something for everyone, at every stage in life. While the heroine is a mother of three in a new city, Center's work also sheds light on multiple stages of life for both women and men. It is plump with possibility and humor, as well as a more serious look at how a person becomes who they are over the years, and how a few small changes can throw everything into or out of focus. At the risk of sounding cliche, this novel changed my life.
My advanced reader edition of the book (released 17 February 2009) already has a waiting list of three. I think it would make an excellent Mother's Day gift, but I can't bare to give it away!
((Portions of this have been x-posted on LibraryThing and submitted to Random House.))