Author Spotlight, Fiction

Author Spotlight: Katherine Center

I am going to do something on this blog that I have never done before, and that is focus on a certain author. Let’s talk about Katherine Center.

Katherine Center graduated from Vassar College and received a Master’s in fiction from the University of Houston. She calls her style “bittersweet comic novels.” An ideal description.

Until recently, the two books I’d read that she’d written were The Lost Husband and How to Walk Away, (click to visit my reviews) both in 2018. I loved them both but went on to other things, as we often do.

Now, four years later, I’ve read three more of her books and I can honestly say that, if I were a storyteller, this is the kind of storyteller I wish I could be. Her books are infused with sadness, humor, wit, and characters beaten up by circumstance who need to start over. Like real life, none of these characters end up on the path they expected. Do any of us? And is that such a bad thing? We grow, we get wiser, we gain perspective, we appreciate things more–all because of the challenges hurled at us.

Things You Save in a Fire: Cassie is a hard-bitten female firefighter who moves from Austin, TX to Rockport, MA to care for her ailing mother. She jeopardized her career when it was at its peak, so this move is a chance for redemption. Aside from being the only woman in the firehouse, Cassie must also endure the pranks and fraternal atmosphere. These guys work hard and play hard. They’ve seen a lot and getting past their hardened exteriors will not be easy. Cassie’s only ally is “the rookie,” a new recruit. Now she just has to prove herself to the others.

In addition to dealing with a new job and a new town, Cassie must also reestablish a relationship with her estranged mother and heal from a violent incident. Her past has made it difficult to trust others. But the saving aspect is that, with one exception, everyone is good at heart, even those who caused hurt. It’s just a matter of allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to let others into their lives and hearts. 9/10 Stars

What You Wish For: Samantha is single, a bit eccentric, and dealing with epilepsy. It’s embarrassing and isolating. She’s ready for a change of scenery after being a school librarian in California for several years. She’s chosen Galveston, Texas as her new home, working in a school headed by her landlord and surrogate father, Max.

Then Max dies and militant new principal, Duncan Carpenter, is hired. He’s a cross between the fairy tale Beast and Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. The problem? Duncan was Sam’s previous principal in California and he used to be completely different. He was creative, fun, and inspiring. What happened? And why doesn’t he even remember her? Like the classic Katherine Center character, Duncan has issues that are reshaping him–but not for the better. He needs compassion, patience, and understanding. Sam does too. 9/10 Stars

Happiness for Beginners: I’ve saved the BEST for last. Remember Duncan from What You Wish For? Now we’re going to learn about his older sister, Helen, and his best friend, Jake. Helen is a first grade teacher, newly divorced, and about to embark on a three-week hiking trek. Jake has recently graduated college and is rethinking his future. He decides to clear his head on the same trek as Helen, bumming a ride to Wyoming in her cramped Subaru. Helen is annoyed at this optimistic, persistent, but highly intelligent kid. She’s known him for six years as her younger brother’s goofy friend, but never really paid attention to him. Now they’re thrown together on the road and, soon, in the wilderness, along with a motley crew of other young twenty-somethings, Helen being the oldest. When you’re at Nature’s mercy, it really changes people.

I LOVED this book. So much so that I bought the audiobook and listened to it again in one day. The banter between Helen and Jake, is humorous and sad, entertaining and profound. The supporting characters–Duncan, Grandma GiGi, and the hiking group are smart and fun. Did I mention that I LOVE this book? 9.5/10 Stars


If you’ve said to yourself, “Well, these books sound formulaic,” I assure you, they are not. Yes, the author starts with a basic template for her characters, but once you get to know them and witness their interactions with each other, you’re sold. (I speak as someone famous for abandoning books that bore me–these never do.) There are lots of deep conversations about life and its struggles. There are people helping each other. There are decisions to be made about how invested one should become in the life of another at the risk of being hurt. They get you thinking about your own relationships and challenges.

Katherine Center has definitely become one of my favorite authors. Happily, there are still a few books left to explore. Her newest, The Bodyguard, will be published in July. She is also very generous to her readers, visiting book clubs in her home state of Texas and interacting with followers and friends on the Goodreads site, including myself.

Be aware that the language sometimes varies between PG and PG-13. But for a reader in their late thirties and beyond, the plots are very appealing. By this time you’ve already been knocked around a little, either by your own choices or the choices of others. Finding intelligent characters with similar experiences and reactions to life’s hardships is reassuring. They become your friends, you root for their happiness, and feel motivated to pursue your own.

Katherine Center’s Website:

1 thought on “Author Spotlight: Katherine Center”

  1. Wow! Sounds like some good reading. Thank you so much for sharing all your thoughts about these books and giving us a review that will help so much. It’s so hard to choose a book when you don’t know much about it. I am curious if someone had recommended these to you….thanks for a great write-up.

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