By Katherine Center
Published April 2008 by Random House Publishing
Jenny Harris always thought she'd do things the old-fashioned way: fall in love, get married, have a family. After her parents' divorce, it was very important to her to get it "right." But life doesn't always work out the way we think it will. Jenny and Dean are, at least, engaged before she finds herself pregnant. And Jenny thinks that will be fine. And it would have been, of course, if Dean had been a different person. Not the kind of guy who would sleep in while his very pregnant girlfriend is hauling things out onto the lawn for a garage sale.
"Right around eleven-thirty, Dean woke up. He showed up on the porch, still in his clothes from the night before, which were wrinkled and emitting a thick odor of cigars. His boxers were edging up out of his waistband. He did not appear to have brushed his teeth. There he stood, hungover, unshaven, squinting."
Not the kind of guy that would suddenly express an unusual amount of sadness over a coworkers death and significantly less interest in Jenny right when she needed him most.
"I wanted someone to rub my feet and tease me about my belly. I wanted a friend, a distraction from the interminable waiting, anything to give me some assurance about something."
Particularly not the kind of person that would walk out on his pregnant girlfriend. The day after Dean leaves, Jenny goes into labor. It turns out that raising an infant is much more work than Jenny ever expected.
Fortunately, Jenny has some people in her life she can still count on. Her mother helps as often as she can, despite her terrible allergy to a cat that Jenny has somehow gotten saddled with. Mom is full of practical advice, although Jenny isn't always willing to take it.
And there's Gardner, a neighbor Jenny met when he saw her hauling furniture out the morning of her garage sale and stopped to help. When Jenny next sees Gardner, the baby has been born and Jenny is feeling very lonely and shut in.
"He got it. In twenty-five words or less, he knew my whole, sad, cliched story. And knowing the story seemed to make him angry. Most people seemed angry when they found out. But there was something extra nice about his response. A touch of big-brother protectiveness. I breathed it in like a good aroma. Cookies baking, say. Or onions sauteing in butter."
For months Jenny struggles trying to figure out how life with a baby works. Then just when she's starting to get it altogether, Dean returns and Jenny is forced to make some decisions about the life she wants for herself and her child.
Center writes a story filled with humor and warmth. While there are some things in the story that are predictable in this kind of story, the story kept me interested. I was cheering for Jenny to make the right choices and I looked forward to the times when her mom was in the story. Having raised a family while working full-time, I didn't always have a lot of patience with Jenny. I often wanted to shake her by the shoulders and say to her, "quit whining." After all, she was able, thanks to a monthly income from Dean's parents, to stay home with her baby. Yet she never seemed to stop complaining about how little sleep she got, how difficult it was to go anywhere, how showers were all but impossible. Even so, Center was able to make me sympathize with Jenny. A side story about Jenny's father's attempt to reconcile with her mother was delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I'll certainly be looking for Center's most recent book, "Everyone is Beautiful."