Book review: ‘Everyone Is Beautiful’ by Katherine Center

everyone_is_beautiful1In Katherine Center’s incredible Everyone Is Beautiful, Lanie Coates struggles to find a balance between the myths of marriage, love and passion while dealing with the realities — or the behind-the-scenes — details of adulthood, parenting and reconnecting with ourselves. Lanie is married to her college sweetheart, a man with whom she is desperately in love — and Peter, while a thoughtful partner and loving husband, is a man desperately in love with his music. With their three young sons, Lanie and Peter move from Texas to Cambridge, Massachusetts while Peter teaches classes at a university and works on composing his own songs. Peter is a masterful musician and loves his family dearly, but when it comes down to choosing between the notes and real life, Peter chooses the music every time.

The novel opens with Lanie in a new park with the boys (all under five years old) and follows her adventures trying to keep the kids from biting others or generally causing mayhem. Disoriented after leaving her own parents and extended family behind in her hometown of Texas, Lanie finds herself unexpectedly lonely — and runs into, of all people, an old high school friend. With Amanda, Lanie fends off a woman who innocently asks Lanie “when she’s due,” not realizing that our heroine has simply not yet been able to shed the excess weight from Baby Sam’s birth. Devastated but unwilling to suffer the humiliation of admitting that fact to a perfect stranger, Lanie pretends to be pregnant again — and quickly devises a plan to change her life.

At turns hilarious, heartbreaking and poignant, I devoured this book in two days — I just had to know what happened! Though I’m not yet a wife or mother myself, women everywhere will relate to Lanie balancing the rigorous demands of her family with her own personal dreams. As Peter’s career escalates and takes new turns, Lanie is left to deal with the reality of everything that’s happening behind the scenes — and keep the family stable. But with a college degree and Master’s in art, Lanie begins to wonder when it’s her turn. And who can blame her?

I loved Lanie and rooted for her from beginning to end. Center is a wonderful storyteller, and I loved the fact that while Everyone Is Beautiful could have easily defaulted into a set of cliches — “Love yourself or no one else will,” “Just be who you are,” “Weight does not measure the worth of a person” — it never did. The dialogue was so believable and fun, and I loved the fact that even the Coates boys — Alexander, Toby and Baby Sam — all had such distinct, cute personalities. Usually the young kids in women’s fiction wind up coming off as props or stand-ins, and aren’t fully fleshed-out characters themselves. Not the case here at all! In fact, all of the “peripheral” characters here were great. “Mean Witch” neighbor Nora has her own struggles to face, and just may greet them head-on with the help of landlord Josh; Lanie’s friend Amanda just might have to accept that her organized, vanilla existence isn’t quite so perfect after all.

And Peter and Lanie’s relationship was so . . . authentic. And romantic. It’s so easy to see why they fell in love — and I adored their back story, inserted deftly throughout the novel — but just as easy to see how the passion began to ebb away. While this is a novel about their marriage, sure, it’s just as much about family dynamics and growing up. Though Lanie is a “grown-up” with a family of her own, she doesn’t realize how quickly the transition from child to parent can take place. She misses her own mother deeply, and calls her frequently. It was refreshing to read a book about a close family that isn’t all drama and suffering — just the normal aches and pains of living and changing. Everyone Is Beautiful is really a coming of age story, too.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough — I loved everything about it. I’ll definitely be reading more from Katherine Center!


5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1400066433 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website

Received through LibraryThing Early Reviewers

9 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Everyone Is Beautiful’ by Katherine Center

  1. Rudy says review more books about dogs. Like Lassie or Call of the Wild. Rudy said these girlie books are Ruff to read.


    • I’ll let Rudy know that every time I read a book about a dog, I wind up crying my eyes out! (Please see Marley & Me and Sight Hound as prime examples.)


  2. This sounds like a great read, Meg. I’ll be looking out for this one.

    Have you read Kissing Games of the World, or anything else by Sandi Khan Shelton? I think you’d like her books a lot.


  3. I keep seeing new good reviews about this book everywhere on the web! Your review maked me want to read it even more; I think I’ll look for it when I go downtown this weekend.


  4. Thank you so much for this thoughtful, intelligent, terrific review! It’s such a treat to read your kind words and your take on the characters! I hadn’t thought of it in these words before, but it’s so true that “Peter chooses the music every time.” And I love that the boys felt like 3-D characters for you! I really wanted to make them distinct and real–I even tried to differentiate the syllables in their names, just to help people tell them apart. (Alexander got 4 for being the oldest. Toby, a little younger, got 2. And (Baby) Sam got 1!–Just to make each of them as different as possible!!)

    I love that the book spoke to you and that you “loved everything about it”!! What an honor! Many, many thanks!
    Katherine Center


  5. How cool that Katherine was here! I’m reading this book now and I love it!! You had a great review and you summed it up so well. You described the characters just as they were portrayed. I can’t stop reading it but I don’t want it to end either. I agree with the 5 star rating!


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