Everyone Is Beautiful is the kind of book you read in one sitting, the kind of book that makes you laugh out loud, the kind of book that makes you feel like you're not alone. Katherine Center has put into words things I've been feeling for the nearly nine years I've been a mother.
Lanie Coates is a young mother of three boys (ages 4, 2, and 10 months). She's given up her art to stay at home with the kids, and she's just relocated the family from Houston (where she's lived all her life) to the Boston area so her husband, Peter, can work on his music career. She doesn't know anyone, she barely has time to take a shower with two kids running around and a baby on her hip, and she soon learns that her parents are selling their long-time home and moving to Dubai. She runs into a girl she knew (but never really talked to) in high school, Amanda, and the two hit it off, but the new friendship doesn't stop Lanie from worrying about the extra weight she packed on during her pregnancies, the lack of intimacy with her husband, and her need for something to do outside mothering.
Lanie decides to change her life. She joins the gym, takes up photography, even befriends the "Mean Witch" who lives in the apartment below theirs. But just as her life is starting to turn around, the bottom falls out from under her and she realizes she might lose everything. And that's all I'm going to say about the plot.
Center's writing is wonderful, perfectly capturing the fluctuating emotions of motherhood and marriage, coating the more disgusting parts of parenting with a bit of humor, and showing that we can find beauty anywhere if only we stop to look. The characters are well-rounded, and Center takes great care in showing a change in all of them by the time the book ends. I loved them all, from the high-maintenance Amanda and the grief-stricken Nora to the creepy photography teacher Nelson. These characters are unique, but none of them seemed over the top.
I think any woman would enjoy this book, kids and husbands or not, but as I closed the book I realized I loved it so much because I understood Lanie. In many aspects of her life and her personality, I saw myself. I've been asked when my baby's due one week after she was born, I've been puked and pooped on, I've napped on the couch while my daughter colored all over the walls. I've gone a whole day without talking to an adult, I've struggled to find time for a shower, I've been called chubby by my child, and I've lamented the romance my husband and I shared in the early days of our relationship. I also know what it's like to feel like I've lost myself amid the diapers and the toys and the burned dinners, and I've found creative outlets (reading, writing, blogging) that keep me sane. Granted, I don't change diapers anymore, but I remember what it was like to be a stay-at-home mom with an infant, and now I juggle the parenting stuff, the marriage stuff, and the hobby stuff with a full-time job.
Everyone Is Beautiful pulls you from happiness to despair to hope and contentment. I didn't realize how much I needed to read this book until I finished it. As I write these words, I'm looking at things differently than I did yesterday. And that a book can make me see myself and other women in a new light, to me, is beautiful.
Everyone Is Beautiful also was reviewed by:
Peeking Between the Pages
The Friendly Book Nook
You've GOTTA read this!
S. Krishna's Books
Wendi's Book Nook
Maw Books Blog
If you've also reviewed it, let me know in the comments, and I'll add your link!
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Everyone Is Beautiful from the publisher for review purposes.