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!