How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Center, Katherine 06.2018
Cover image shown with permission from St. Martin’s Press

I was recently reading some comments by the Dalai Lama (and stay with me here because I realize I’m here to write about Katherine Center’s latest novel, I promise this has relevance) about his experience being forced to flee his home country of Tibet, and to live most of his life in exile. What he said about this experience that was so painful to him, was also all the joy that had come out of the life that was forced upon him. Instead of being bitter about the unfairness of it all and focusing on the pain the separation had caused him, he spoke about the relationships and the positive outcomes that he would not have had if he had been able to live the life that he had originally imagined. How many of us could have the same outlook?

Margaret (what a great name for a protagonist!) Jacobsen has her life planned out: she is about to start a dream job in Austin, Texas after years of hard work, she is adored by her family (except for a mysteriously estranged sister), and has a successful, handsome boyfriend, who loves her dearly, and who looks like he is about to propose(!) On top of all this, Margaret seems like a really kind, hard-working person, who deserves all the success and happiness that is coming her way. Unfortunately, as in real life, bad things happen to good people.

After a terrible accident changes everything, Margaret’s world begins falling apart, forcing her to rely on people she cannot stand (see: return of estranged sister), and watching pieces of her life that were supposed to be so strong crumble around her. She has to make choices, really hard ones that make you wonder what you would do in her shoes, and cause the reader to think about people who live with disabilities every day, and what their experiences must be like. I have to admit, I was humbled when she spoke about hating the looks of pity people gave her, when she just wanted to be viewed as a normal person. I am definitely guilty of giving those looks.

I felt this story was very honest and compelling, while also upbeat considering the seriousness of the subject. Another thing I’ve learned from the Dalai Lama is the value of laughter and not taking yourself too seriously, so I found this tone to be realistic and empowering. There are lots of interesting family dynamics/drama, and yes, a love story, so as far as I’m concerned this book has it allincluding amazing inspirational quotes such as “When you don’t know what to do for yourself, do something for somebody else.” and

“You have to live the life you have. You have to find inspiration in the struggle, and pull the joy out of hardship… Because that’s all we can do: carry the sorrow when we have to, and absolutely savor the joy when we can.
Life is always, always both.”

Overall I would recommend this story to anyone, but definitely for someone who enjoys an engaging plot that’s realistic but upbeat, with a thoughtful and strong female narrator, and interesting and complex relationships and family dynamics.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Published: May 15, 2018

I read this as: an ARC I received at the PLA conference 2018

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What You Don’t know about Charlie Outlaw by Leah Stewart 

What You Don’t know about Charlie Outlaw by Leah Stewart 

Stewart, Leah 2018.03
Cover image included with permission from G.P. Putnam & Sons

Charlie Outlaw is a television celebrity who has problems. He’s said some extremely honest (and therefore embarrassing) things in an interview, angering the showrunner, his fans, and most of all his girlfriend Josie Lamar, who ends up dumping him over it all. Charlie decides to escape by going on a vacation on a far-away tiny island when he finds that he has real, serious problems, namely that he is kidnapped, unsure if he will ever make it out alive.

The book ensues with parallel narration, going back and forth between Charlie and Josie as they remember their past together and the current situations they both are in. Josie is also a celebrity, although her peak has come and gone, as she was the star of a huge cult show 20 years ago (I imagined her as Sarah Michelle Gellar from Buffy). This book has so many interesting insights on being a celebrity, from interreacting with fans, auditioning, the costs (literal costs, such as how much publicist and stylists charge), and the stress of fame, that I was convinced that Stewart was perhaps a celebrity I had never heard of. Turns out she’s not, but she did extensive research on sets, watching auditions, and interviewing casts and crew, but she could have fooled me. I loved learning about the insights of being an actor, the sincerity and practice of it all, as well as the techniques actors used to fulfill different role types. I have always been aware that acting is difficult, but I had never really considered how it is done or what that experience would be like, and putting myself “in the actor’s chair” was the best part of the novel for me. Stewart is also very good at thinking through emotions, showing the complex way each person feels and how that drives their decision making and reactions.

The story-line is very much character driven, so it’s good that both Charlie and Josie are extremely likeable and sympathetic, their back-stories tying into their current situation as they recall the highs and lows of their relationship. At first the book reminded me a lot of Maria Semple’s books, but then with the kidnapping the story-line turns, well a bit dark at points. While the take on celebrity is novel and very fresh, the story itself moves a bit slowly, doing a thorough job of really fleshing out the characters and their relationships with each other. I would recommend this to someone looking for a new take on a love story, with interesting, realistic, insightful and sympathetic characters, and definitely someone interested in life in Hollywood.

What You Don’t Know About Charlie OutlawWhat You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw by Leah Stewart

Published on: March 27, 2018

I read this as: A NetGalley ARC