Book review: ‘The Bright Side Of Disaster’ by Katherine Center

Busy planning a wedding to her rock-star-dreaming boyfriend, Dean, Jenny Harris wasn’t quite prepared for a little surprise headed the couple’s way: a baby. Just months from their wedding day, Jenny’s pregnancy has thrown everyone for a loop . . . especially her fiance. When Dean begins acting strangely and then announces his departure, Jenny must pull herself “up by her bootstraps,” as her father would tell her, and prepare for the arrival of a little one. Even if she’s doing it alone.

Katherine Center’s The Bright Side Of Disaster, the author’s 2007 debut, was — more than anything — a shocking portrayal of first-time motherhood. And though Center is still a no-fail author for me, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as her more recent efforts, Everyone Is Beautiful (which I loved) and Get Lucky (also loved).

From the get-go, something about this one fell flat for me. While I appreciated Jenny as a resilient character, I was still frustrated by many of the silly decisions she made. I can understand that she’s a young woman trying to figure out a difficult situation, but the way she let Dean in and out of her life grated on my nerves. Jenny is the good friend you see screwing up all over the place and badly want to tell the truth, but you’re too afraid of hurting her feelings. What she really needed was someone to throw a bucket of cold water on her face and shout, “Get a grip!”

But, you know. That happens to all of us sometimes.

The strength of the novel comes from Center’s ability to portray, with stunning clarity, just how difficult it is to be a parent. On the flip side? Well, that’s also the book’s downfall. Having no kids myself, I’ll be frank: The Bright Side Of Disaster scared the tar out of me. If I remember little else about this book (and I might not, to be honest), one scene will stay with me forever: Jenny’s birthing scene. Oh. My. Goodness.

Just . . . I’ll stop there. It’s terrifying.

A few side characters provided distractions from the chaotic monotony (is that possible?) that becomes Jenny’s life with her newborn: the handsome neighbor down the street, Gardner, who steps in and mans up when Dean won’t; Jenny’s divorced-but-maybe-still-in-love parents, who provide much needed levity; Claudia, a new mommy friend who contributes perspective. But overall, I wasn’t too interested in the side plots or invested in Dean and Jenny’s back-and-forth relationship. It was obvious what she needed to do from the start.

Center is an engaging, warm writer — and I still love her! At the risk of sounding condescending, it’s obvious how well her writing has progressed in the two novels she’s penned since this release. The Bright Side Of Disaster is a fast read, yes — and I’m sure parents will see shades of themselves in the up-all-night baby stories. But it wasn’t a homerun for me.


3 out of 5!

ISBN: 0345497961 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy obtained through BookMooch

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12 thoughts on “Book review: ‘The Bright Side Of Disaster’ by Katherine Center

  1. I made so many silly decisions in my life about relationships, I’d either probably hate Jenny because she reminded me too much of myself, or empathize for the same reason! And you have me so curious about the birthing scene! I may have to read this one! :–)

  2. This has been on my TBR list for awhile now. After reading Get Lucky last year (and loved it), I told myself I had to read her other two books this year. Sorry to hear it fell flat for you. I am still interested in reading it. Thanks for the honest review.

  3. Well, I thoroughly enjoyed Everyone Is Beautiful on audio. I don’t think this one was available, otherwise I’d probably have read it. No clue as to how I would respond to it though. I did some really stupid things when I was younger, and I’ve been through that birthing thing twice (don’t let it scare you…you forget pretty quickly). I’m going to snap this one up if I can find it on audio some day.

  4. Yes, don’t let the birthing scene scare you. Even if you have a bad labor, you do forget. You think, oh my goodness, I am never going to forget how awful those hours were! – but you do forget.

    I have a hard time getting past silly decisions, so this book probably isn’t for me. Center’s later books sound good, though!

  5. I’m sorry to read you didn’t enjoy this one as much as you hoped to, considering how much you liked her previous novels. I remember your review of Everyone is Beautiful, it made me add the book to my TBR pile! The cover is great, though.

  6. I’ve only given birth once (my Mom had eight of us so to me that feels like slacking) but I will say that both my husband and I were shocked by the natural violence and indignity of it. That I had to do this awful thing to myself, rather than letting someone do it to me, was mental stun-gun. Thankfully, when you reach a certain level of pain, other sensations go away so it’s not like , “Oh this hurts AND I can feel my delicates ripping into tiny shreds.” It’s just like, “OH THIS HURTS.” Period. After it’s over, you go through life feeling relieved during every moment that you are not in excruciating pain. They put a catheter in and you holler, “Glory be!”

    So that is also a blessing.

    I purposely did not get an epidural because I was driven to find out whether I could handle the reality. Would my faith that the basic nature of reality is good stand up to the factual existence of agony? Now that I know I can handle it I don’t regret it but I have to say that being beat up that badly makes visits from the in-laws and washing dishes three days later and never sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a time for a month and seeping blood constantly and sore nipples UNENDURABLE. I think I was pretty cracked for a while.

    But my four-year old son is sitting by my side at this moment – and it’s not so much how precious he is to me as how precious his own life is to him that makes me say, I’m pretty sure I’m a hero. Because I bled and suffered to give him life. I think that will be remembered in my favor on judgment day. My Mom, now. I look forward to seeing her adorned in eternal splendor.

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