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The Bright Side of Disaster


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About the Author

Katherine Center graduated from Vassar College, where she won the Vassar College Fiction Prize, and received an MA in fiction from the University of Houston. She served as fiction co-editor for the literary magazine Gulf Coast, and her graduate thesis, Peepshow, a collection of stories, was a finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. A former freelance writer and teacher, she lives in Houston with her husband and two young children.


This debut novel from an award-winning writer and former coeditor of the literary journal Gulf Coast tells the story of Jenny Harris, a young woman preparing for an overdue baby and marriage when her fiance leaves her. The narrative chronicles the end of her relationship, the beginning of her life as a single mother, and her methods of coping when her simple dream is shattered a day before it was set to begin. Naturally, an interesting man appears postbaby, though Jenny's interactions with him tend to lack depth. Jenny is at times a bit passive and deluded, particularly when the fiance is still around, but she's also a charming and refreshingly optimistic character, maintaining her sense of humor and offering blunt observations regarding birth plans and sore nipples. This engaging, heartwarming protagonist/narrator keeps the novel afloat despite the cliches and contrived plot elements (e.g., her financial status after the baby's birth). Short chapters make this a quick read and a great book for the beach or summer vacation; fans of Jennifer Weiner's Little Earthquakes will appreciate. Recommended for public libraries.-Amanda Glasbrenner, Chicago Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

First-time novelist Center nails ornery and opinionated Texas women in this uneven tale of survival of the hardly fit. "It's not how you wanted it, but it's how it is," jilted and pregnant Jenny Harris is advised by her long-divorced mom. "Much of mothering is that way." Jenny's rock and roll wannabe fiance Dean Murphy ditches her for a woman who died before he had the chance to sleep with her. ("I don't feel the same about you anymore. It's not my fault," he writes in his I'm-outta-here note.) Jenny has little time to nurse the heartbreak; baby Maxie is born the next day, and all Jenny's plans implode. What pulls Jenny through new mom hell is a network of bright, fearless women who thrive despite the bumbling men around them: Jenny's feisty mom with the "big Texas personality," blunt best friend Meredith and single-mom Claudia prove single women needn't be lonely, pathetic or poor. Yet this gaggle of sharp and funny supergals mostly falls apart when it comes to men. There's a rogue's gallery of thinly drawn louts, and from the rabble rises Jenny's dreamboat neighbor John Gardner, a pediatric nephrologist on sabbatical. Dean, of course, reappears, presenting Jenny with a not-difficult dilemma. Center's debut is fast-moving and pleasantly diverting, thanks to sharp dialogue and a narrative that's heavier on the sass than the diaper rash. (July) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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