Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Everyone is Beautiful bookclub

This is the first time we've done a contemporary novel as opposed to a classic, and there are some exciting things going on -- a tweet-up, some prizes and more. Check out the main post at 5 Minutes for Books for more info.

I enjoyed Katherine Center's novel Everyone Is Beautiful. As Dawn described in her original review, I did finish it quickly. The story really pulled me along. I laughed, I welled up with emotion -- it was great.

I wanted to address two of the questions below, as suggested by Dawn. I'll just use them as a jumping off point:

  1. How did you relate to Lanie's character? Beyond just the mom/young children connections, did you feel any type of kinship with her?

  2. What did you think about Lanie's pursuit of a new definition of herself, with her workout routine and photography interest? Is there something you'd love to pursue in your own life?
I am not sure how much I related to Lanie's character, but I related to her situation, and I admired her resolve to get out of her situation. Let me amend that: I related to a couple of her situations.

Lanie moves from Texas to Boston, and almost five years ago, I moved from Texas to Connecticut. Like Lanie, there were things that I missed about "home," but I was also determined to make it work. I think that my situation was a little better, because we moved into a little home on a beautiful piece of property, so that I would sit out on my front porch, gazing out at the lush trees, and think "This is my house? I really live here?"

In my front yard in Houston, there was no place to sit, and who wants to sit outside in Houston anyway? If I looked out the windows of my foyer, I'd see a not-always-so-well-manicured lawn, some oak trees that the builder had planted (which had actually grown a surprising amount), and lots of white concrete -- the driveway crossing over the sidewalks and flowing into the concrete street. I could sit on my back deck and gaze at the pool, or take a dip, which I did enjoy, but I enjoyed the change to a more rural Connecticut (just as Lanie enjoyed living and walking within the city streets of Boston).

The second situation that I related to was needing to have her own thing, her own time. But in this, we are most different. For one thing, I only had one child for 5 1/2 years. When Kyle came along, Amanda was practically grown. I was never lost and mired in that 3 under 5 situation. I also knew, instinctively perhaps, that I had to have "my own thing." Unlike Lanie, I didn't really find or need a specific talent, as she found with her photography. I just needed time. I was home full-time with a new baby, and I had a supportive husband who encouraged me to meet with my monthly neighborhood book club, my monthly scrapbooking group, to attend an evening Bible Study once a week. Those were all "my things," and I knew that I needed them.

For Lanie, for whatever reason (perhaps the fact that it took sheer focus to simply survive the 3 under 5 situation), she got lost. Or perhaps she had been involved in something other than motherhood in her "old life" in Houston, but the move was a shock to her.

One thing that I loved about this novel, is that Katherine Center just got people. That's what was beautiful to me about the novel. So, also per the discussion questions, I have a question for Katherine, that I hope to ask her either on the conference call or the tweet-up: "Is there a way in which the experience of motherhood is the same for everyone? Or is everyone's experience different?" In the novel, we really only explore two moms, Lanie and her wealthy mom-to-an-only-child friend Amanda. I thought that they were quite different, so I'd like to explore that a bit more. I think that would be a good topic to discuss on the tweet-up on Wednesday night at 10pm Eastern.

It also leads to thoughts in my head about fatherhood, or husbandry (not animal care, but you know, the act of being husband). Nelson, Lanie's husband Peter, Lanie's father, and Amanda's husband Grey. Now that I think about it, I think that she said a lot about the male role in all of this.

If you have questions about Twitter, let me know. Anyone can do it!


morninglight mama said...

I'm so glad that you enjoyed this book, especially after I gushed for so long! I definitely can relate to the getting lost in the role of 'mom' and losing who you were before the kids came along... something that I'm trying to work on myself! :)

foodieplus4 said...

I, too, liked this book and could SO relate to having many children pulling me in too many directions. The author did very well in describing the challenges that most moms seem to face. Lanie seemed a more relaxed mom than I am and was confident in that she didn't care too much what people thought. I admired that in her. She did seem a little disconnected with her husband, which is always a signal of trouble ahead. But I liked her optimism and courage. I would like to ask the author what other ending she considered or if the published ending was the only one.

Nise' said...

This was a great book. My kids were spaced out too and my husband was supportive of me doing "my things".

Katherine Center said...

Yay, Jennifer! Thank you so much for all your enthusiasm about Everyone Is Beautiful. I'm so happy you liked it!!

anner1010 said...

I loved this book. It was a quick and easy book but at the same time it hit some deep issues that I think all women, not just moms, experience. Being a Southern girl, relocated to New England with two small children, and later to Texas (with the same slightly older children), I felt an immediate connection to Lanie. The initial isolation and almost sense of abandonment she feels seemed familiar. I don't think moving cross country is a prerequisite to those feelings...we can have those perceptions at any point in life. In the midst of her circumstances, though, Lanie demonstrates what should be a life skill for us all -- she embraces friendships with the people around her, without regard to how incredibly different from her they are. We see how we can all benefit from and be beneficial to those around us. When we moved to Texas I ran into a college friend in a bookstore and we were able to pick up our friendship where we left off years ago. When Lanie immediately meets her high school friend in the park, I was reminded how important someone familiar can be in a time of transition. Lanie finds time for herself which she uses to define/redefine herself, which in turn, makes her more useful to her family. She doesn't let her college degree (a choice we all made at a young age) limit her job and hobby possibilities for the rest of her life. This book does an awesome job of using humor and bluntness to address the small and big issues of life that we all experience in some way...in the end we are encouraged and empowered to keep going.

Lisa writes... said...

I just realized I never responded to your offer to lend the book! Can you say "life is crazy"? C R A
Z Y !!!

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