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Get Lucky

Get Lucky

3.8 24
by Katherine Center

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How do you change your luck? Katherine Center’s marvelously entertaining and poignant new novel is about choosing to look for happiness—and maybe getting lucky enough to find it.
Sarah Harper isn’t sure if the stupid decisions she sometimes makes are good choices in disguise—or if they’re really just stupid. But either way


How do you change your luck? Katherine Center’s marvelously entertaining and poignant new novel is about choosing to look for happiness—and maybe getting lucky enough to find it.
Sarah Harper isn’t sure if the stupid decisions she sometimes makes are good choices in disguise—or if they’re really just stupid. But either way, after forwarding an inappropriate email to her entire company, she suddenly finds herself out of a job. 

          So she goes home to Houston—and her sister, Mackie—for Thanksgiving. But before Sarah can share her troubles with her sister, she learns that Mackie has some woes of her own: After years of trying, Mackie’s given up on having a baby—and plans to sell on eBay the entire nursery she’s set up. Which gives Sarah a brilliant idea—an idea that could fix everyone’s problems. An idea that gives Sarah the chance to take care of her big sister for once—instead of the other way around.

          But nothing worthwhile is ever easy. After a decade away, Sarah is forced to confront one ghost from her past after another: the father she’s lost touch with, the memories of her mother, the sweet guy she dumped horribly in high school. Soon everything that matters is on the line—and Sarah can only hope that by changing her life she has changed her luck, too.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A hilarious and touching take on what it means to be a grown-up, Get Lucky asks the quintessential question of whether we can ever go home again. You can't help but root for Sarah right until the end, and will no doubt laugh and cry with her along the way.  A must-read."- Julie Buxbaum, author of The Opposite of Love and After You

“[A] thoroughly enjoyable girlish romp.” – Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
In her light third novel, Center (Everyone Is Beautiful) tackles sisterhood, but falls just short of poignancy. Sarah Harper is on the New York fast track at a top advertising agency until she grows a conscience overnight and sends out a companywide e-mail debunking her popular bra campaign. Fired, she flies home to Houston, where she crashes with her older sister, Mackie, and Mackie’s husband, Clive. Turns out Mackie has problems of her own: after years of trying to have a baby, she announces she’s done. In an effort to do something good for a change, Sarah offers herself up as a surrogate. In the nine pregnant months that follow, Sarah juggles unexpected feelings for her brother-in-law and expected feelings for an ex-boyfriend, and instead of the pregnancy bringing her and Mackie closer, it drives them apart. Witty dialogue and likable characters keep the pages turning, but Center glosses over the depth of emotion inherent in carrying your sister’s baby to the point that you forget at times that Sarah is pregnant. It’s a fun, breezy book, but it doesn’t try to get to the heart of the matter. (Apr.)
Library Journal
After accidentally forwarding a filthy email to her entire company, Sarah is fired from her New York advertising job. During a visit to her dear sister Mackie back home in Houston, the reality of Mackie's years of unsuccessful pregnancies gives Sarah an idea—she can have a baby for Mackie! But then what Sarah thought would be a simple, loving deed gets incredibly complicated. Pregnancy hormones raging, Sarah develops a crush on Clive, her brother-in-law. Then her old boyfriend Everett reappears, and Sarah can't decode his feelings for her. And when her father announces his marriage to Dixie, a bedazzled cowgirl who couldn't be more different from the girls' late mother, emotions run high. Once Sarah gives birth, the sisters' relationship becomes strained, and Sarah needs to work out her feelings about Everett and returning to Manhattan vs. staying in Houston. VERDICT Center (Everyone Is Beautiful: The Bright Side of Disaster) has written another thoroughly enjoyable girlish romp. The story is cute, the characters are likable, and there's enough depth to keep the reader from being covered in fluff.—Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

First: I got fired. For emailing a website with hundreds of pictures of breasts to every single person in our company. Even the CEO and chairman of the board. Even the summer interns.

Looking back, I may have been ready to leave my job. I'd like to give myself the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes the crazy things I do are actually very sensible. And sometimes, of course, they're just crazy.

I knew the company had just lost a high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit for some very big money. I knew we were now enforcing our zero- tolerance policy. I knew somebody somewhere in the chain of command was looking to make an example. But I didn't think about all that at the time. Here's another thing I didn't think about: I'd just nailed the ad campaign of a lifetime, and I was finally about to get promoted.

In my defense, it wasn't like these people had never seen a breast before. In fact, our whole agency had been awash in them for months. We'd just finished a national campaign for a major bra

company, and I'd led the creative team. I'd even come up with the concept-ads directing women to do all sorts of crazy things with their chests while wearing one of these bras.

"Dip 'em," one ad read, while our push-up-clad model leaned into a swimming pool, dunking her boobs in the water. "Scoop 'em," read another, while she pushed her boobs up toward her chin with two enormous ice cream cones. "Lauch 'em," ordered a third, as she arched her back up to the sky. And on and on: "Smack 'em," "Mug 'em," "Wash 'em," "Flush 'em," "Flash 'em," "Love 'em," "Lick 'em," "Leave 'em." I'd spent innumerable hours with those boobs-weekends, nights-working my butt off to turn them into the most famous cleavage in America. Which, by January, they'd become. No small feat.

The model for the campaign was nineteen years old and profoundly anorexic with the most enormous augmented chest you can imagine. I didn't even know her name, actually. We just called her "the Tits." She was a petulant teen who spent all her time between shots wearing earbuds and drinking lattes and then asking people for gum. The question "Do you have any gum?" will forever take me back to that summer. She was a pretty girl, though the freckles, bumpy nose, and squinty eyes would have required retouching. If we'd used her face. In the end, we zoomed in so close that her face didn't even come into the shots. When it came to bras, who needed a face?

That's really how I used to think. I'm not exaggerating at all.

If I sound crass here, that's because I was. If I sound unlikable, that's probably true, too. I was, at this point in my life, after six years in advertising, a person who needed a serious spanking from the universe.

And don't worry. I was about to get it.

I was proud of the ads. They were saturated with color, eye-catching, naughty, and delightful. Everybody was ecstatic, and I was strutting around the office like a diva. The Boob Diva. That was me.

But something was off. Being the Boob Diva wasn't as great as I'd expected. I'd been so underappreciated at that job for so long that when appreciation finally came, it felt false. Maybe I'd built up too many expectations. Maybe all the pep talks I'd given myself about my coworkers being idiots were finally kicking in. Or maybe external validation is always a little disappointing, no matter what.

The books I'd been reading weren't helping, either. I had a whole stack by my bed that chronicled the ways advertising was making us all miserable. Who knows why I kept buying them? It's a chicken-egg question. Did I hate my job because I was reading the books? Or was I reading the books because I hated my job? Either way, I couldn't get around what they had to say: That an economy based on buying stuff needed to keep us all dissatisfied and miserable, needed to keep us focused on what we didn't have instead of what we did, and needed to convince us that things like happiness and peace and beauty could be bought.

Not the greatest watercooler chitchat.

Later, it would occur to me to wonder if advertising in general was screwing over the entire world or if my firm in particular was screwing over just me. I certainly wasn't paid enough. Or recognized enough. Or appreciated. But questions like that are a long time in the making. First, I had to have a little thing we might call a breakdown. Or an epiphany. Neither of which was my intention.

Here's what happened, to the best of my recollection: The night before our big final presentation, my sister happened to send me an email link with the subject line "Boob-a-palooza!" Because I was too wired about the next day to go to bed, I clicked on it. And there, I found miles and miles of mug shots of anonymous breasts belonging to real women. No faces, no bodies, just breasts. Breasts au naturel. Breasts in the wild. Breasts as Mother Nature intended.

My sister just thought it was funny. But I had a different reaction: I could not stop scrolling through. I'd seen a lot of breasts on TV and in movies and on magazine covers in my life. Who hasn't? But I'd never seen anything like these real things. The variety was spellbinding. High ones, low ones, flat ones, full ones. Close together, far apart. Lopsided. Droopy. Walleyed. Googly-eyed. Water balloons. Bags of sand. Jellyfish. Cactuses. Bananas, prunes, and pickles. And this was the eighteen-to-thirty-two-year-old category. These were boobs in their prime.

Under each photo there was a caption written by the owner of the breasts. And each caption read something like this: "These are my breasts. They're pretty droopy (or lopsided or small or dimpled or ugly or embarrassing or pickle-shaped). Wish I could fix them." The comments ranged from vehement hatred to mild distaste, but nobody, absolutely nobody, said: "Here are my boobs. Aren't they great? I find them delightful, and hallelujah!" Nobody.

I was slated to hit the office at nine the next morning in my stilettos to present the "Boob 'em!" campaign to everybody who mattered. But instead of getting to bed early, as I'd planned, I stayed up until three in the morning browsing the photos. Something about the

realfiness of the pictures on the site underscored the fakeness of the boobs in our ads. Something about the dignity of the real things made our hyped-up things seem ridiculous. The whole campaign suddenly seemed brash and loud and stupid and just plain rude in a way that I couldn't ignore. How had I never thought about this before? We were about to put a picture of a woman's cleavage getting branded on every bus in America, for Pete's sake.

I thought about all the normal women who had taken off their bras for the cameras. I thought about the bravery of stepping forward with your own imperfections to help others feel better about theirs. And all at once I felt ashamed of being part of the problem. I scanned the site until the images and the words bouncing in my brain became a cacophony of women's dissatisfaction and despair, building louder and louder to a crescendo that I could not shush. That is, until four a.m., when I clicked Forward on my sister's email, selected the company-wide distribution list, and hit Send.

I sat back and nodded a little so-there nod.

Then, in the quiet that followed, I realized what I'd done, sat straight up, choked in a little breath of panic, and started looking for a way to unsend that email. Knowing all the while that there wasn't one. That's the truth about emails: You can't take them back.

In effect, I fired myself. Though the guy who actually did the firing- discreetly and several hours after our slam-dunk presentation-was a VP named J.J. who everybody called "Kid Dy-no-mite." Even though he wasn't dynamite at all, just another ad guy at Marston & Minx. A guy I'd started with six years earlier. A guy who'd been promoted over me based on work we'd done together. A guy I'd slept with back in the beginning until he called me a workaholic and broke things off. Now he was married to a girl who wore pink Bermuda shorts when she brought him lunches in a picnic basket at the office. But I guess I was even less dy-no-mite than he was, because I wasn't married to anyone, nobody ever brought me lunches, and now I was out of a job.

J.J. said, "I'm sure you know that email was inappropriate."

"Was it?" I said.

He gave a short sigh. "People were pretty offended. Yeah."

We were standing in the now-empty meeting room where our "Boob 'em!" campaign would later win promotions for seven people on our team. We were surrounded by enormous blowups of bra-clad breasts in every direction. Breasts larger than our bodies, in full color. Valleys of cleavage the size of La-Z-Boys. The "Steer 'em" ad showed boobs wrapped in barbed wire. "Munch 'em" showed them resting on a giant sub sandwich. And "Whip 'em" had a close-up of a whip just before impact.

"J.J.," I said. "Look around."

He looked around.

I said, "What does stuff like this do to real women?"

"Real women?" he said, cocking his head. "Real women are overrated."

Then he gave me a flirty smile, patted me on the shoulder, and told me the case was closed. It was lunchtime. He had a meeting. "Be graceful about it," he advised as we headed out. "And if you upload your own photo to that site"-he opened the door with one hand and pressed the small of my back with the other-"shoot me an email." Then he added, "You'd totally win that contest."

"It's not a contest," I said.

"Everything's a contest," he told me, and then he walked away.

Next: I went out drinking with my team to celebrate our success. I wasn't a big drinker, but it seemed like the thing to do. I didn't tell anyone that night that I'd been fired, and pretended instead, all the while, even to myself, that I was still their boss. They teased me about the website and insisted that it would blow over, and in some small way, I let myself believe them.

Because I didn't want to be by myself. I didn't want to walk back to my apartment quiet and lonesome and fired. The ride down in the elevator alone had been bad enough, as I'd watched the doors close on the last six years of my life. I knew where I'd been, but I had no idea where I was going, and as the elevator started to move down, I felt that drop in my stomach that you feel when you're falling. Except I couldn't even tell myself that I wasn't falling. Because really, actually, I was.

Here's a trick I've discovered for those moments when your life changes too suddenly to handle: Just ignore it. Ignore it for as long as you can. That was what I decided to do. I'd go home to Texas for Thanksgiving and not think even for one second about being fired until I was back in the city on Monday morning, scrolling through the want ads. Ignoring things doesn't fix anything, but it can buy you some time.

At some point, on the town that night, we all pulled out the last of several samples of gift bras the client had sent us and fastened them on over our clothes. Even the guys. After three glasses of wine and a mixed drink the bartender invented for us called a Double D, I felt relaxed in a way that I never, ever had-and optimistic about my new "freedom," like I was on the verge of a great adventure. As I shared bedroom trivia about Kid Dy-no-mite with our entire table-the Roller Derby fantasy, the Cagney and Lacey fixation, Elton John on continuous play-I found myself thinking, I should go out drinking more often.

Though at six the next morning, as I rode in the cab to Newark with my forehead pressed against the window glass, there was nothing about that night I didn't regret.

For the flight home, I had upgraded to first class using frequent flyer miles, and as we lurched through the Holland Tunnel, I clung to the idea of dozing off in one of those wide seats, a glass of Perrier on my tray table. The day before seemed almost like a bad dream, and I was ready to get as far away from it as possible. Home-always a tricky place for me-seemed like a refuge. And since I didn't have another one, I ran with it.

But when I got to the airport, they didn't have a record of the upgrade. And the seat I'd been assigned was in the very last row.

I said, "But I have a confirmation number!"

The airline lady clicked around on her computer, shaking her head. "Nope," she said. "Nothing." And then, as if that settled it, she said, "This confirmation number's not valid."

I was not feeling well. My head hurt, I was nauseated, I was unemployed. But I didn't complain. My roommate, Bekka, was a flight attendant. "Do you know what we do to the rude passengers?" she asked me once. "We reroute their bags to France."

In the end, I wound up thanking the lady for her help and proceeding to what was clearly the worst seat on the plane-one right against the bulkhead that didn't recline. I was also the very last person to board, and by the time I neared my seat, I was starting to sink. All I wanted was to fold myself into my little upright corner and snooze, but first I had to get past the people in my row. I was muscling my carry-on into the overhead bin as they unbuckled, stood up, stepped into the aisle, and waited. Then, just as I was scooting past and almost home, one of my rowmates spoke to me. We were belly-to-belly as I moved past him, and here's what he said: My name.

"Sarah," he said-and not like a question. Not like, Is that you? But more like: Sarah. Of course. When I paused to look up, there, inches away, was my high school boyfriend, Everett Thompson.

I had broken his heart. I had dumped him for an idiot soccer captain with beautiful calves. The last time I'd spoken to Everett, he'd been seventeen with a hoarse voice from crying. I could still almost hear it if I thought back. He had snuck over and camped outside my window that night, something that seemed sweet now, though at the time it had prompted me to call him a "freakazoid" the next day in the girls' bathroom.

But he'd bounced back. He went off to Stanford and NYU Law. He became a hotshot lawyer out in L.A. There was a rumor at one point that he was dating Mary-Louise Parker. My sister had called me about it and said, "Bet you feel pretty stupid for dumping him, huh?"

"Yep," I'd said.

"You could be Mary-Louise Parker right now," she'd said.

"Is that how it works?"

Meet 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 freelancer and teacher, she lives in Houston with her husband and two young children.

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Get Lucky 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
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carrie sachnik More than 1 year ago
This is a great easy read that sucks you into the lifes of these vivid people. I enjoyed the story and look fotward to more from this auther
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ILgirl07 More than 1 year ago
Very cute story about two sisters and one pregnancy! Good secondary characters including Sarah and Mackie's dad's new fiancee and the zany preservation library people that Sarah works with. A quick read - great for reading out on the deck or at the beach. Read her earlier books too - they are fantastic!
IHeart2Read More than 1 year ago
Ms. Center became a part of my world last year after I read raving reviews for Everyone is Beautiful. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to read it. When I heard her latest book would be released in the spring of this year, I immediately added my name to the wait list. My only regret is I waited to start reading her books. Get Lucky is a fascinating story between two sisters Sarah and Mackie. Sarah makes one careless decision which costs her her job. Uncertain what to do next, she flies home to spend the holidays with older sister Mackie. Mackie and her husband have attempted several times to conceive a child. When Mackie informs Sarah they have decided to give up, Sarah decides for once she will take care of Mackie and offers to become their surrogate. Little did each sister know the impact this will have on their lives. What I liked most about Get Lucky were the relational themes throughout the novel. At first glance, it's obvious the story is about sisterhood. Ms. Center delves deeper and explores parental relationships, the loss of relationships and forming new relationships. Just when we think everything is okay, the past has a nasty way of blindsiding us. Until that moment of sudden impact, little did we know it was there all along shaping us and protecting us in all our relationships. Center does a great job of examining the unhealed wounds of the past. So, yes I'll admit my first thought of Get Lucky was a quick, light read. But after reading the last page and closing the book, I realized it was much, much more than that. Take a lesson from me, don't wait to read a book by Katherine Center. Get Lucky was my first read, but will not be the last.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun and enjoyable summer read. I read it on my honeymoon to St. Croix.
Debles More than 1 year ago
This is a touching story about honesty, losing yourself, finding yourself and trusting your gut. Sarah loses her highpowered advertising job in NY, returns home to Houston to be with family and ends up being a surrogate for her sister and her husband. But this story is WAY more than that! Katherine Center writes characters with heart, spunk and that are so human you fall in love! I read this book in one day and will read it again. Bravo Katherine!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
charlottesweb93 More than 1 year ago
A sister's relationship is something that is indescribable. They are often more than best friends. Because, like Katherine Center points out, there are times when even best friends come and go. But a sister, a sister is forever. Get Lucky was a fast, emotionally charged read. I was chuckling one second and wiping tears the next. The ups and downs of being a Sister were what this story was built on. And Katherine Center nailed it. From the unbelievable devotion to the frightening hints of jealousy to the sharing clothes and eating ice cream in bed. The relationship two sisters have will, without a doubt, may be the most important relationship they ever have. I absolutely adored this book. Katherine Center has a gift when it comes to writing about human relationships and she certainly nailed it with Get Lucky.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In New York, Sarah Harper is rising to the top at an advertising agency. However, she suddenly feels remorse and guilt over her bogus bra campaign. She drafts an email with pictures of boobs while confessing that her ad campaign was B.S.; she accidentally (on purpose as she rationalizes that dumb decisions can be good choices) sends it to the entire firm . Fired, she flies home to Houston. Her sister Mackie and her brother-in-law Clive take her into their home. Mackie tells Sarah that they have tried for a baby for years but failed and is resigned that she will not conceive. She has told Clive no more. Sarah offers to serve as the surrogate mom, which the couple accepts. Nine months of carrying has Sarah confused as she wants Clive and her former boyfriend Everett while she and Mackie drift apart. Making matters worse for the battling siblings, their widower dad announces he is getting married. This is an engaging family drama in which the sisters act at any moment as if they are ready to rumble. Amusing throughout, the story line gets deep inside the siblings yet for the most part fails to dig into how it feels to be carrying your sister's baby from the perspective of both. Mindful of the movie Baby Mama, fans of a lighthearted contemporary will want to read Get Lucky. Harriet Klausner