A spirited debut novel with a terrifically appealing voice, a fantastic sense of humor, and a lot of heart, The Bright Side of Disaster reminds us that sometimes it takes the worst case scenario to help us find the best.
*The Bright Side of Disaster has a beautiful new cover!*
About The Book
Jenny Harris always expected that she’d fall in love, get married, and have a baby–in that order. Now, very pregnant and not quite married, she actually doesn’t mind that she and her live-in fiancé, Dean, accidentally started their family a little earlier than planned; she’s happy to have so much to look forward to. But Dean–whom Jenny loves enough to overlook his bad facial hair, his smoking habit, and his total commitment to a cheesy cover band–is acting distant, and not in a pre-wedding-jitters kind of way. The night he runs out for cigarettes and just doesn’t come back, he demotes himself from future husband to sperm donor.
And the very next day, Jenny goes into labor.
In the months that follow, Jenny must figure it all out on her own—and redefine love for herself. She’ll find new joys, even as she struggles to let go of what she wanted. In the end Jenny must choose between the old life she thought she wanted and the new life she’s been lucky to find.
"A charming debut . . . Cleverly told and uncommonly appealing."
on THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER
the dallas morning news
"Novels as polished and mature as The Bright Side of Disaster just don't come along very often from first-time novelists or, for that matter, from those with much longer résumés."
on THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER
"Beautifully penned and truly memorable . . . a heartwarming and deeply emotional debut."
on THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER
bestselling author carrie doyle
"The narrator felt like my best friend, the characters were vividly drawn, the dialogue was spot-on, and the pace had me hooked."
on THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER
"Engaging, heartwarming . . . a great book for the beach or summer vacation."
on THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER
bestselling author carrie doyle
"I couldn't put down The Bright Side of Disaster. Katherine Center is a terrific writer."
on THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER
"Oh, how I love Katherine Center’s writing . . . and her newest novel is a gem:
#1 Bestselling Author JODI PICOULT
Praise For The Bright Side of Disaster
“Charming. . . Cleverly told and uncommonly appealing.”
– PEOPLE Magazine
“[A] funny and poignant novel about love, motherhood and men . . . Center elevates the subject matter beyond the realm of ‘mommy lit.’”
– The Houston Chronicle
– USA Today
“Center’s writing flows effortlessly, drawing the reader into Jenny’s story. . . . Beautifully penned and truly memorable, The Bright Side of Disaster is a heartwarming and deeply emotional debut.”
– BookPage* *Names Katherine one of seven new writers to watch!
“. . . Bittersweet and utterly authentic . . . Novels as polished and mature as The Bright Side of Disaster just don’t come along very often from first-time novelists or, for that matter, from those with much longer résumés.”
– Dallas Morning News
“In her stellar first novel, Center paints an accurate and humorous view of motherhood from the physical changes to lack of sleep and exhaustion, as well as the changes in friendships and feelings about men.”
“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.”
– Publishers Weekly
“This is a compulsively great read with a truly likable leading lady.”
– Canada’s Metro News
"Love, love love this book. Very well written page turner that gives a great escape, lots of provoking thought and a wonderful frothy story that's better than chocolate mousse."
I could not put this book down! I inhaled it in 2 days. I kept having to tell my husband why I was laughing or emotional, but then saying, 'But you have to read the way it's written, because it's so perfect.' I was hooked on every page."
"Loved it! Katherine Center has become my favorite author. I have read all her books and they are all wonderful."
"Wonderful book! One of the few I actually couldn't put down. I was annoyed when I had to actually sleep! Can't wait to read her other books! Beautiful prose, realistic plot, lovely descriptive writing."
"I loved this book. I absorbed it. There was even a moment when I wanted to grab Jenny and give her a good slap on the face for her bad decision making, and it's been a long time since I cared enough about a character to want to do that."
"This book is by far one of the best books I've ever read. It was super easy to read, and I just didn't want to put it down. I fell in love with just about every character in the book . . . that is, except for Dean. This is a definite read!"
"This was one of the best books I've ever read—and I've read a LOT of books! Funny, poignant and real; the plot moves fast, the protagonist is likeable and all the characters are quirky enough to make you either want to laugh at them or slap them. Sometimes both. I hated to see the book come to an end, and I can't wait until her next one."
"Katherine Center captured a particular feeling in this book that has made me read it 3 times in the past couple of years. I love this story!"
"LOVE Katherine Center! Her characters seem very 'real' to me, in realistic situations. It's nice to have the main character be someone you feel like you could actually know and be friends with. Can't wait for her to release a new book!"
"This was a such a cute book!!! I found myself rooting for the main character throughout the whole story. Definitely shows that even if your life doesn't turn out exactly how you planned it, in the end it could be better than you ever imagined it!"
"I gobbled this book down faster than an ice cream cone on a hot summer day! You will not read a more enjoyable, witty, touching, perfectly concluded book this summer!"
"Loved it, loved it, loved it. As did my entire bookclub. Finally someone who captures the sweet wacky essence of motherhood. I feel heard! And entertained! The story line of this book made it so that I couldn't put it down. I want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with this witty, funny main character."
USA Today • “New Voices: Katherine Center”
“Katherine Center can NOT write a bad book. I love everything she writes!”
“There’s something Zen-like calming and almost therapeutic about reading a Katherine Center novel. I know I’m reading fiction, but the characters and their stories are so true to life, it doesn’t feel like it.”
“Katherine Center has done it again. Wow. Could not put down. I am in love with her work.”
“This was one of the best books I’ve ever read — and I’ve read a LOT of books! Funny, poignant and real; the plot moves fast, the protagonist is likeable and all the characters are quirky enough to make you either want to laugh at them or slap them. Sometimes both. I hated to see the book come to an end, and I can’t wait until her next one. If you like Jennifer Cruisie, you’ll love Katherine Center. I got the book out of the library, but I’m buying myself a copy right away. This is one I know I’ll reread over and over.”
“Love Katherine Center’s books!! Smart, sassy and so enjoyable to read!”
“Katherine Center is one of my favorite authors. I have loved every single one of her books. Her characters have such a unique voice, and her stories are romantic and hopeful, serious and thoughtful, and always hilarious. She just writes the sorts of stories you want to lose yourself in for hours.”
“This book wrapped me up in a warm blanket, put a cup of tea in my hands and kissed me on the forehead.”
“I love living in the world that Katherine Center creates where everything is imperfect but there is always humor, there is always love, there are always people around you to pick you up when things get bad.”
“I love this book. I’ve read it like four times.”
“Wow, how does this author do this to me every time? I read this book in several hours over two days and I just wish I could hop back in with these characters and keep reading about them. She even makes a character interesting who literally just barely leaves the house with a new baby. I legit have loved every story by this author and cannot wait for a new one. I’m hooked! But really though, if you are a mom, or pregnant, read this book, and all of her books really. Because she nails it. All the mess, all the joy, all the learning how to still be you while being a mom. She nails it. “
“I could not put this book down! It’s cute, funny, and light, but filled with lessons that I may or may not use in the future lol”
“Katherine center has a way of engrossing her readers in a story like no author I have read before. The more books I read of hers the more I enjoy them!”
“Loved, loved this book. A quick read, funny, sad and romantic. Jenny is a woman we can all relate to.”
“My love of Katherine Center continues. Her characters are so wonderful, I would totally be their friend. Well, I’d be friends with the heroines. Not the jerky ex boyfriend. (Not a spoiler, it’s on the dust jacket.) Katherine’s description of pregnancy, childbirth, and that first year took me right back to that time in my life. Pick up this book. Pick up anything by this author.”
“I’ve loved every book I’ve read by Katherine Center.”
“Katherine Center — and my husband (not in that order) — got me through this pandemic. I went on a binge and read *almost* all of her books last summer. All save one: this one. I had it in my house, I just saved it for later . . . I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction and a lot of *heavy* fiction that can be emotionally exhausting. This book was perfect for what I needed — a story about relationships and getting to know oneself. Thank you, Katherine Center.”
“This is THE PERFECT easy, breezy , charming, no nonsense, quick summer read. Recommend!”
“This has all the characteristics I’ve come to love from Center’s novels — perfectly flawed characters, humor, romance, and the celebration of internal strength.”
“Loved the main character and the writing was great! I laughed out loud a few times. It was endearing and relatable. Love this author and this book was different from the other ones I’ve read.”
“Such a easy, quick, great read. I love every single one of Katherine Center’s books! She creates character that capture your heart and make you root for them… She’s an absolute favorite author of mine.”
“Absolutely love this book and this author! I couldn’t put it down! I think I have read all of her books now and I am already hoping she is writing more! Thanks Brene Brown for referring me to Katherine Center she is now one of my favorite fiction writers!”
“Relatable, sweet, swoony read!”
“The Bright Side of Disaster was Katherine Center’s debut novel in 2007, but it is new to me. I had devoured several of her later works, but had not know of this one until I searched all her novels, because she is too good a writer for me to miss anything she writes. This one was a bit lighter than her subsequent novels, but that just made it a very quick read, and left me sobbing at the end, which is the highest compliment I can pay to a book . . . This is a very warm hearted, character driven novel I was lucky enough to live inside for a day. I truly hated for it to end, and was sorry it was shorter than Center’s subsequent novels. I was left wanting more, and that is exactly how it should be!”
“Katherine Center captured a particular feeling in this book that has made me read it 3 times in the past couple of years. I love this story!”
“The beach house I was staying in had the book Get Lucky by the same author. As soon as I finished reading it, I downloaded all of her other books on my Kindle. Each one is completely different than the next, but they are all amazing! This is the kind of book you don’t want to put down and you miss the characters when it’s over.”
“My daughter was right, great read. Could not put the book down. I am looking forward to the next Katherine Center book.”
“I absolutely loved this book as I love the other Katherine Center books I have read. Life, love, twists and turns all combine in this book to show us what are the most important things in life.”
“Another book by Center that I loved. As a mom I literally felt every single page written about motherhood as if I were reliving it. Looking forward to another of her books.”
“Another sweet story by one of my favorite authors. I’m smiling big right now. 😁”
“I loved this book! I loved how real the main character was. She was flawed, clueless going into pregnancy and new parenting and it was so relatable. So often we read books and watch movies with new parents that makes it look like sunshine and rainbows all of the time, but it’s so far from that. You love the main characters and hate the “villain”. Second book by this author and another win for me.”
“The is the first book I ever read by Katherine Center. It came at exactly the right time in my life. It was funny, witty, and made me feel hopeful.”
“Loved this book…read it in one day…..”
“I loved this book. I absorbed it. There was even a moment when I wanted to grab Jenny and give her a good slap on the face for her bad decision making, and it’s been a long time since I cared enough about a character to want to do that.”
“Another sweet story by one of my favorite authors. I’m smiling big right now.” 😁
“I really enjoy the way Center builds the stories into a realistic piece of delectable fiction.”
“Finally! A book about motherhood and relationships that wasn’t cheesy or full of cliche. Usually I pick up a new book, only to give up on it after the second or third chapter. This one caught me right away, and I finished it in three days (with two small children running circles around me). I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining, quick read. I was bummed when I reached the last page! Ordering her next novel right now!”
“I highly recommend this book. It was a beautiful, sometimes funny and very real story.”
“I LOVED this book! I think the relationship between Jenny and her newborn baby is SO lovely and fun to read. I love that when Jenny finds herself in an especially tough situation, the novel isn’t about a man “saving” her, she is completely capable and able to save herself. The voice in this novel is so fun and light, it feels like I’m talking to a best friend.”
“Katherine Center is hands down my new favorite author. I’ve read several of her books and find myself smiling throughout.”
“I love love love Katherine Center. (OK technically I don’t know her, but I love her books!) The first book I read of hers was How To Walk Away, followed by Things you Save in a Fire, and I was hook line and addicted by the time I read What you Wish For. I just love her style of writing and the storylines she chooses are unique, and the characters very relatable.”
“I LOVE this author, I LOVED the main character, and I LOVED this book!”
“I gobbled this book down faster than an ice cream cone on a hot summer day! You will not read a more enjoyable, witty, touching, perfectly concluded book this summer! You’ll find yourself wishing you had the ability to articulate life’s daily little wonders and struggles as easily as Katherine Center does. Her writing is both brilliant and personal, and her story is a must-read for any mom (though I wish I had read it before giving birth so I could have had a healthy sense a humor about the whole thing! At least I’m laughing now!).”
“This book doesn’t disappoint! Shows that you can be strong when you need to and relationships can come in the least expected times.”
“What a fun book. This story took me back to the sleep deprived days of new motherhood. Very fast read took me a day and a half. I was sorry when I finished so now I have to read more from K. Center.”
“I wish I could have read this is one sitting, but my life kept getting in the way. I loved this book,”
“Katherine has a way with words and setting up scenes that makes my whole body feel as if the events were happening to me. I can literally feel the weight of them as I read line after line… ‘And then, as if he was trying to resist but couldn’t, he brought his mouth to my neck and kissed me there. It made me feel tipsy all over again. And even after the kiss, he rested his forehead against my shoulder, lingering there like he didn’t want to go, like he’d give anything at all to be able to stay in that one place.’ There are some stories that I never want to end and this was one of them. Katherine has the gift of storytelling that makes anyone believe fairytales can happen to them.”
“I was snickering countless times but also commiserating with Jenny on a deep level. It’s an easy to read story that will certainly entertain you and make you root for the new and single mother.”
“Katherine Center is now one of my favorite authors! So talented!”
“I am loving all things written by Katherine Center right now. Another book about something serious dealt with in a light-hearted way. Loved Jenny and her hunky neighbor.”
“An early book by Katherine Center with a slightly different type of storytelling versus her more recent releases. I loved every minute of it. Lighter on the romance, but still sweet and swoony.”
“Another great read by Katherine Center!”
“Ahh whats no to love!! Me encanta esta autora! Los tuerces del destino. Lo peor se convierte en lo mejor!
Los hijos son lo mejor. Siempre confiando hacerlo lo mejor que se pueda!”
“I’ve been reading through her books and this is one of my favorites. It had me laughing out loud many times.”
“I wish I had half — maybe even just a third — of Katherine Center’s talent for writing dialogue and character development. That this is her debut novel is mind-boggling to me! I felt as though I knew each of the characters as well as some of my own friends, and the book is laugh-out-loud funny, too!”
“I am probably biased because Katherine Center is one of my favorite “fun” writers. This one did not disappoint. Her books always leave me feeling happy.”
“This book showed the loneliness, the sorrow and agony of being abandoned but also showed healing, strength and finally a love worth living. I was moved and charmed by this book.”
“One of very few books I read in a day. Just couldn’t put it didn’t. Great writing, great story, great imagery. And it didn’t hurt that it’s set in my neighborhood in Houston Heights, so it felt so real as she described the turns on the roads or the local colorfully painted vintage houses.”
“SIGH. Why is Katherine Center making me want to live inside her books?”
“It’s a tight-focus, no-holds-barred look at early motherhood, and it made me laugh and cringe and nod in empathy and sympathy as Jenny muddled along through those first few months.”
“Love, love love this book. Very well written page turner that gives a great escape, lots of provoking thought and a wonderful frothy story that’s better than chocolate mousse.”
“I instantly fell in love with the main character and wanted nothing but the best for her. Loved how Center brought to light those first few months of motherhood and all those things no one tells you about … rarely eating a full meal without the baby waking up, going days without a shower or getting dressed and sleep, what’s that again?! Love Center’s style of writing and can’t wait to read more by her.” 😊
“I really, really love reading this author and her feel good stories!”
“I will always say that it’s the first sentence of every book I read that makes me want to read more. “The end began with a plane crash…” Hook, line and sinker. It was an easy read, but one that took me so far away from where I am. The author has created her characters beautifully, each their own distinct person. The way she has strung words along, to carry you through with enough curiosity to keep the pages turning.”
“I have just discovered this talented writer. Her books are so real, like chatting with a friend. The characters just wonderful.”
“I loved this book. It was so simple yet; so engaging. Everything really does happen for a reason.”
“I love Katherine Center’s writing. Her unique way of examining tough situations, without making them feel bleak is refreshing. Any mom will relate to Jenny’s plight during pregnancy and the newborn stage. As I read I had many laugh out loud moments while rooting for Jenny and her newborn. This was a quick and enjoyable read with humor and lots of heart.”
“It made me laugh out loud many times, just the way she phrases things. I rarely laugh out loud at books.”
“Once again, a page turner…live the story as it’s easy to relate to…too many women accept the bad boy and don’t allow themselves time to find the right man! I truly believe it’s better to be alone for the right reason then with someone for the wrong! ❤️ Katherine Center’s writing!”
“This was a sweet and simple story but sooo well written. It made me laugh, it made sad, it made me angry and it made me swoon(Gardner!!!).”
Read an Excerpt!
The end began with a plane crash.
Just before midnight on a Tuesday in February. A girl I’d never met or even heard of died, along with her miniature dachshund (under the seat) and a planeload of passengers in the kind of commuter plane I’ll never fly in again. I’ve pictured it a hundred times now: the quiet hum of the motor, the sleeping passengers, the sudden jolt, the cabin steward thrown sideways before he could finish his instructions. In my mind, it always looks like a movie, because I have nothing else to go on.
That night, I was asleep, safe on the ground, miles away in Texas in my hand-me-down bed, nestled under a patchwork quilt made out of ties from the seventies.
Since getting pregnant, I fell asleep before the double digits. It was something my not-quite-yet-husband, Dean, teased me about. He was a night owl. And I had been one, too. These days, a month before my due date, I was in bed with my swollen ankles up on pillows as soon as the dishes were done. He was out in the living room with his headphones on, likely playing air guitar.
In a slightly different situation, I would have heard about the crash on the news and thought no more about it. I am sure that girl meant many things to many people. And though I didn’t know it at the time, and I would not have recognized her if she’d knocked on my door, she meant a lot to me as well—in a roundabout kind of way.
The day Dean came home from the office with the news, I’d been out in the garage for hours pricing things with little orange stickers. I’d quit my job at a fancy antiques store a few weeks back at the urging of the owner. She knew I was planning to quit after the baby came, but she decided it didn’t make sense to wait. She took me aside one morning and said that I was, simply, too big. “When you can knock over a piece of Stickley with your belly,” she said, “it’s time to call it a day.” She gave me some coupons for a mani-pedi, promised she’d always give me her dealer discount, and nudged me out the door.
So I was home. And planning our upcoming garage sale with checklists, spreadsheets, and a color-coded map of my yard. At thirty-six weeks and counting, what else was I going to do with myself?
When Dean walked in with a pizza, I was slumped over the aqua dinette in our kitchen, drinking orange juice and trying for an end-of-the- day rally. He popped open a beer and swigged down about half of it. His tie was wrinkled. Really wrinkled, like it’d been on the floor of his car for days before he’d discovered it. I wondered if it would be my job to see to such things when we were married.
He pulled two plates out of the cupboard, and just as I was thinking how much I loved it when Dean brought me pizza, they slid right out of his grip and shattered on the floor.
“Fuck!” he shouted. “Fuck!” He turned and slammed his palm against the cabinet.
I didn’t say anything. After five years with him, I knew to lay low. My best friend, Meredith, and I called these moments “occasional eruptions of inappropriate rage.” They were, you might say, a part of his charm.
He pressed his head against the cabinets, and I set about picking up. I had to bend over my belly to reach the shards, which made great clanks as they hit the metal bottom of the garbage can. When I went for the broom, he moved to his chair and sat down. Then he said, “A girl from work died last night.”
“Died?” I said. “How?”
“Big plane or little plane?” I asked.
“Puddle jumper,” he said.
I finished sweeping and leaned the broom against the counter. “Who was it?” I asked, sitting down.
“Just a girl. She worked in graphics.” He lifted a slice of pizza and took a tentative bite, as if it might not go down well.
“Was she somebody you knew?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, mouth full. “I definitely knew her.” Her cubicle was around the corner from his, and she—her name was Tara—used to stop in and say hi. She had worked there for a year. She had been planning to come see his band.
We chewed for a while. Then, not sure what else to say, I shook my head and said, “I thought plane crashes only happened to people on the news.”
“Well,” he said. “She’s on the news now.”
After dinner, we sat out on the porch swing, as we did many nights. Our house was in one of the few historic neighborhoods in Houston that hadn’t been bulldozed for townhomes or mini-malls. By some mystery, folks in our neighborhood were restoring their houses instead of replacing them. Living here was like living in another place in time.
On good nights, we’d go on talking after dinner. But tonight he kept quiet, nursing beer number three. He was holding the memo they’d passed out at work with details about the funeral and where to send donations. It had this girl Tara’s picture on it.
She was Asian, with shiny straight hair and kissy lips. The picture was from her company ID photo, but even so, she was smiling as if the guy who’d taken the photo had been flirting with her. She certainly seemed very alive. And she was the kind of pretty that wasn’t up for discussion.
“She’s pretty,” I said, looking over his arm.
“You think so?”
“Dean,” I said, giving him a look that said, Come on. At the time, a little lie like that seemed sweet to me. I assumed he was trying to be a good fiancé by pretending not to know she was pretty. Like he only had eyes for me. “Yes,” I said. “She’s pretty.”
“Was,” he said.
I tried to start up some other conversation after that. I told him that Meredith had bought a leash for her cat. I told him about a report I’d heard on a hurricane in the Gulf. I told him I’d heard a woman singing a version of “Hush Little Baby” on the gospel radio station that afternoon, and the sound had brought tears to my eyes. But the words came out of my mouth and fizzled like sparks before they hit the ground.
Some nights were like this, when Dean just couldn’t rise to the conversational challenge. Meredith said he was moody, which was true. But we all had our shortcomings. Still, if we weren’t going to talk, I wished he would rub my neck, or hold my hand. But he didn’t.
Dean wanted to take a shower, so I followed him inside. I put on my don’t mess with texas maternity nightshirt before I headed into the kitchen to clean up, and when I got there, I noticed the girl’s picture was on the fridge. Dean had put it up with butterfly magnets, one placed in each corner. Very few things on our overloaded fridge merited more than one magnet. Not our list of frequently called numbers, not the picture of us at a wildflower garden on our road trip to Austin, not the liner notes for Dean’s band’s only album. But there she was, securely placed and there to stay. I wasn’t sure I wanted her there, and I thought about taking her down and sticking her in a drawer with the take-out menus.
But I left her. She had the kind of eyes that followed you around the room. I’d thought that happened only with paintings in museums, but here she was, in my kitchen, watching me. While I did the dishes. While I took my prenatal vitamin. While I did a final sweep for pieces of broken plate. She even watched the door for my return while I took the pizza box outside to the trash. Back inside, I turned the dead bolt, started the dishwasher, and stood with my hand on the light switch. We held each other’s gaze for a few minutes, and then I left her in the dark.