Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Everyone is Beautiful

Summary: Lanie Coates’s life is spinning out of control. She’s piled everything she owns into a U-Haul and driven with her husband, Peter, and their three little boys from their cozy Texas home to a multiflight walkup in the Northeast. She’s left behind family, friends, and a comfortable life–all so her husband can realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. But somewhere in the eye of her personal hurricane, it hits Lanie that she once had dreams too. If only she could remember what they were.

These days, Lanie always seems to rank herself dead last–and when another mom accidentally criticizes her appearance, it’s the final straw. Fifteen years, three babies, and more pounds than she’s willing to count since the day she said “I do,” Lanie longs desperately to feel like her old self again. It’s time to rise up, fish her moxie out of the diaper pail, and find the woman she was before motherhood capsized her entire existence.

Lanie sets change in motion–joining a gym, signing up for photography classes, and finding a new best friend. But she also creates waves that come to threaten her whole life. In the end, Lanie must figure out once and for all how to find herself without losing everything else in the process.

Katherine Center’s Everyone Is Beautiful is a hugely entertaining, poignant, and charming new novel about what happens after happily ever after: how a woman learns to fall in love with her husband–and her entire life–all over again. -- Ballantine Books

I was so excited that I was selected to review EVERYONE IS BEAUTIFUL by Katherine Center as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewer Program. I have read so many terrific reviews about this book and couldn't wait to read it. I read Ms. Center's other book THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER and liked her writing style, so between that and all the glowing reviews, I just knew it was going to be a wonderful read. And, I'm so happy to say that I wasn't disappointed. I absolutely loved EVERYONE IS BEAUTIFUL!

As a stay-at-home mother of two, I could certainly relate to Lanie. I have, at times, felt as if my life were spinning out of control (and I only have two kids with a five year gap between them.) So many of Ms. Center's descriptions of the chaos in Lanie's life were hilarious, and I'm pretty sure that most moms will identify with one or two of the stories. I loved the part where Lanie says a bad word and her son picks up on it immediately. Isn't it so true that you can teach them the same word a hundred times and they can't remember it, but say a curse word once and it sticks?

Lanie was a terrific character and I love that the story was told in first person narrative by her. It was so enjoyable to hear Lanie's insights about life in general (especially motherhood), and I couldn't help put love her -- screw-ups and all. What I found so refreshing about this novel was Lanie's honesty, sometimes to the point of brutal honesty. I think that's one of the reasons this book spoke to me and I found it to be so real.

The beauty of this book is that so many women (and especially mothers) will see parts of themselves in Lanie. While I promised myself that I would always shower each day no matter how frantic my life when my kids were small, I could still relate to Lanie and her perceived frumpiness. What mother hasn't smelled like spit-up, had boogers on her pants, and found crushed food in her pockets? I also totally understood why Lanie had such a negative body image -- I felt the exact same way for years! And the parts of the story where Lanie feels like she gives so much to her family that there is nothing left for her are absolutely what every mother has felt at one time or another.

One thing that I loved about this book is that Lanie eventually realized that all these feelings she has about herself exist inside her mind -- that she ultimately has the power to change herself and find happiness. I almost stood up and cheered when Lanie decided to start going to a gym; and then when she signed up for the photography class and fought for scholarship money, I was like "you go girl!" Just feeling as if you are not a victim, but rather in control of even a few small things in your life is so empowering. What a wonderful message for any woman to hear!

Another thing that I liked about this book was that Lanie realized that you don't have to be perfect to be beautiful. In fact, Lanie discovered that her best friend Amanda who seemed to have everything -- the perfect body, perfect house, perfect daughter, perfect husband, etc. -- definitely didn't have the perfect life. I also loved that Lanie's goals about her body image were realistic. She decided to eat healthy, work out regularly, and still eat a piece of chocolate cake every week. Definitely do-able!

I just had to share the book trailer with you -- it's very special:

As I read EVERYONE IS BEAUTIFUL, I couldn't help but smile. The writing is fantastic, the characters are charming, and the message is just something I can never hear too often -- everyone is beautiful! Lord knows, I never see myself as beautiful; but this book reminded me that there is something beautiful about myself (I just have to look for it and be aware of it!)


Amy said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it Julie! I thought it was great as well!

bermudaonion said...

I've had this book for a while and after reading this, I'm really anxious to read it. Great review, Julie - you're so right about the feelings mothers go through.

Shelly B said...

I'm so glad you liked this one; I did! Great review!

Nicole said...

I relate with this book. I'm definitely going to read it.

Beth F said...

Super review! And thanks so much for sharing the trailer. I'll have to track this one down and read it.

Kristi said...

Loved your review. I know that since I became a sahm 4 years ago, I am finding it harder to decide where I "fit" - since I was a working mom for so many years before this. I had become what worked defined me as - so now I am sort of a wanderer!

S. Krishna said...

I really enjoyed this one as well. Great review!

Anna said...

Glad to hear you liked this one. I absolutely loved it and totally related to Lanie.

Diary of an Eccentric

Katherine Center said...

Thank you so much for this lovely review of my novel, Everyone Is Beautiful! It's such a pleasure to read these kind words. I'm so glad you liked it, and so grateful to you for recommending it so wholeheartedly! Your review is terrific. Many thanks!!