The Lost Husband: A Novel

The Lost Husband: A Novel

by Katherine Center

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The Lost Husband: A Novel by Katherine Center

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin, this tender and heartwarming novel explores the trials of losing what matters most—and how there’s always more than we can imagine left to find.
Dear Libby, It occurs to me that you and your two children have been living with your mother for—Dear Lord!—two whole years, and I’m writing to see if you'd like to be rescued.
The letter comes out of the blue, and just in time for Libby Moran, who—after the sudden death of her husband, Danny—went to stay with her hypercritical mother. Now her crazy Aunt Jean has offered Libby an escape: a job and a place to live on her farm in the Texas Hill Country. Before she can talk herself out of it, Libby is packing the minivan, grabbing the kids, and hitting the road.
Life on Aunt Jean’s goat farm is both more wonderful and more mysterious than Libby could have imagined. Beyond the animals and the strenuous work, there is quiet—deep, country quiet. But there is also a shaggy, gruff (though purportedly handsome, under all that hair) farm manager with a tragic home life, a formerly famous feed-store clerk who claims she can contact Danny “on the other side,” and the eccentric aunt Libby never really knew but who turns out to be exactly what she’s been looking for. And despite everything she’s lost, Libby soon realizes how much more she’s found. She hasn’t just traded one kind of crazy for another: She may actually have found the place to bring her little family—and herself—back to life.

Praise for The Lost Husband
“A sweet tale about creating the family you need.”People

“A heartwarming novel that explores the trials of losing what matters most.”USA Today
“[Katherine] Center writes endearingly of love and family in her fourth novel, with lessons about loss, gain, standing up for oneself, and accepting that your best is good enough. Fans of well-crafted romantic women’s fiction won’t be disappointed.”Booklist

“A novel about family, love and forgiveness . . . heart-rending and heartwarming.”Kirkus Reviews

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345538918
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/07/2013
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 2,353
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Katherine Center is the author of three novels about love and family: The Bright Side of Disaster, Everyone Is Beautiful, and Get Lucky. Her books and essays have appeared in Redbook, People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, Real Simple, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle—as well as the anthologies Because I Love Her, CRUSH, and My Parents Were Awesome. Center is a graduate of Vassar College and the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. She lives in Houston with her husband and two young children.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
My husband had been dead for three years before I started trying to contact him.
By then, our house was long sold, his suits were donated, and his wedding ring was in a safe-deposit box. All I kept with me was a shoebox full of meaningless stuff: a button from a shirt, an old grocery list, his driver’s license, his car keys, a doodle he’d drawn on a Post-it. That was everything of Danny’s I’d held on to: a box of junk.
That, and, of course, his children.
Piece by piece, I had left our old life behind—though I suppose you could argue that it had left me first—and now I was in the final stages of starting over, which meant, for my little lopsided family, leaving town. And so on this Texas-warm New Year’s Eve morning, I was following a ribbon of asphalt out to the countryside, checking and rechecking my directions while my kids poked each other with magic wands in the backseat of our minivan.
“Hey!” I said, catching their eyes in the rearview mirror. “Those are for spell casting only. No poking! Or else.”
This was about the tenth time I’d threatened to confiscate the wands. Weak parenting, I knew. I should have taken them away ten exits back—no second chances. But I didn’t want to have to take them away and go through all the drama that would follow. I wanted the threat to be enough.
We were approaching the town square of Atwater, Texas. A town two hours from Houston at the edge of the hill country that I’d never visited or even thought much about. The speed limit downshifted as we drew closer, and the rolling fields that had surrounded us since we left the interstate now gave way to barn-sized feed stores, cinder-block motels, and fast-food joints. I glanced down to review my next step: go around the courthouse, then a right on FM 2237, known to locals, apparently, as Broken Tree Road.
We were beginning, I kept telling the kids in a voice that sounded false even to me, “an adventure.” Though the truth is, moving to Atwater was much less about starting something than about ending something. Because there were many hardships in the year after my husband’s death—finding out he’d spent our savings, for example, and cashed in his life insurance—but the hardest hardship by far was having to move in with my mother.
Since then, we had stayed at her condo for two passive-aggressive years as I endured judgments on my parenting, my figure, my wrinkles, my grieving process, my haircut, and my “joie de vivre” with no end in sight until, unexpectedly, I’d received a letter from my mother’s famously crazy sister offering me a job and a place to stay. On her goat farm. In Atwater. Somewhere southeast of San Antonio.
Now, less than a week later, we were trading one kind of crazy for another—hoping against hope it was an upgrade.
And so the morning’s drive from Houston was not just the pavement between towns. It was the shift between our old life and our new one. All morning I’d felt it—the big-dealness of it—as a nervous flutter in my chest, and I was sitting straight up in the driver’s seat, gripping the wheel with both hands like a student driver at attention.
That is, as at attention as you can be with two children bapping each other in the backseat with wands. Because just as the road brought us to a stop sign at the town square, and just as I caught my breath at the county courthouse rising in front of us like a Disney castle, my son smacked his sister once again on the head with his wand, and when she shrieked, I hit the brakes and turned full around to face them.
“Quit it!” I said, giving them my sternest look. “The next time I have to say it, I’m throwing the wands out the window.”
They bowed their heads a little and held still.
“Got it?” I asked, and they both nodded.
Just as I was turning back around, I heard a man on the sidewalk shout, “Hey! Watch out!”
I looked up, but it wasn’t me he was calling to. It was someone in the crosswalk in front of us—and at the same moment I realized that, I also realized my car was not exactly stopped. Turning all the way around in my seat had eased my foot off the brake, and we were rolling forward.
I stamped my foot back down in time to see a girl standing in the crosswalk, directly in front of my car. She had turned her head at the shout, too, and thrown her hands out toward the hood as if they could protect her, just as we lurched to a stop, tires squeaking, less than two inches from her knees. She looked straight through my windshield, and we locked eyes for longer than I’d ever held a gaze before.
I threw the transmission into park, but before I was even out of the car, the man who had shouted at us appeared in the crosswalk and grabbed the girl by the shoulders. And that’s all I saw as I leapt from the driver’s seat and arrived beside them: her dazed face and a white-haired guy with a mermaid tattoo on his forearm.
The tattooed guy was shouting, “Jesus, Sunshine! Watch where you’re going!”
She waved him away. “I’m okay,” she said. “I’m fine.”
Then he turned to me. “You almost killed her!”
I was out of breath. “I’m sorry! I thought my brakes were on! My kids were fighting! I’ve been up since five!”
“Killed by a minivan,” this girl, Sunshine, said, as if she were reading a headline. “That’s not how I’d prefer to go.”
“No,” I said. “Of course not.”
“Killed by an ice cream truck, maybe.” She shrugged, as if that suggestion were less bad. “Or killed by a Jet Ski.” She looked down at the stripes on the pavement. “Maybe a paragliding accident.”
My kids were back at it in the car as if nothing had happened. I could sense the wands in motion and hear squeals. Cars were lining up behind me. I was just about to excuse myself when she snapped her fingers, met my eyes, and pointed right at me.
“Shark attack!” she said.
It felt odd to brainstorm the best headline for this girl’s death. But it also seemed rude to deny her anything she wanted. So I faked it: “Yes!” Then I nodded. “So much better than a minivan.”
She could tell I was faking, though. She let her hand drop and stuffed it in her pocket.
“I’m so sorry,” I said again.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said.
That’s when I realized the tattooed guy was studying me. “Are you who I think you are?” he asked.
“Um,” I said. “Who do you think I am?”
“Are you Jeannie’s niece?”
It was so odd for him to know that. And I had never in my life heard my aunt called “Jeannie,” much less with such affection. But he had me. “Yes,” I said. “That’s me.”
And then he did the strangest thing. He stepped over and hugged me. Tight. A big hey-howdy Texas hug. “Welcome to Atwater,” he said when he finally let go.
I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Sunshine was turning to leave. We’d been in the road too long.
Just at that moment the driver of the truck behind us got tired of waiting. He leaned on the horn. The sound startled us all, and something about it woke Sunshine up. She turned back and seemed to see me for the first time—seemed almost to recognize me, even. She stepped back in my direction, took my hand for a second, and ran her eyes over my face.
“That husband you lost?” she said, out of nowhere. “I can find him for you.”
That husband I lost.
The day I lost him, we’d had a fight.
I had dreamed he was cheating on me with—and I’m not kidding here—a trapeze artist from the circus. In the dream, I caught them having coffee at Starbucks, him in my very favorite ice-blue tie, her in a sequined leotard with a plunging, faux-flesh neckline. Needless to say, she was more beautiful than me. No doubt more limber. And far sparklier.
Danny didn’t understand my point. “It was a dream,” he kept saying. “It wasn’t real.”
“It was real to me,” I said back.
He was getting ready for work—towel around his waist, shaving at the sink. My daughter, Abby, then four, was still sleeping, as was her little brother, Theodore, a.k.a. Tank. I could hear their separate breathing sounds on their separate monitors.
At first Danny thought the dream was funny. “How do you know we were even having an affair?” he said. “Maybe I just wanted a trapeze lesson.”
Under my bathrobe, I was still wearing the little lacy thing I’d put on the night before in hopes of sparking a night of romance. The same one I’d fallen asleep in before he even made it home, actually. Though, in his defense, I was down for the count by eight-thirty.
“Trust me,” I said. “You wanted much more than trapeze lessons.”
“You don’t know that,” he said.
“I do know it,” I said. “Because I was there.”
Danny met my eyes in the mirror. “That’s a critical point,” he said. “Because I wasn’t.”
He was right. I shrugged. “It just tore me up to see you, okay?”
Danny took a breath. “Please tell me you’re not truly angry at me for something you imagined in your own head while I was fast asleep next to you.”
“I know it sounds crazy—” I started.
“It doesn’t just sound crazy.” His voice was tightening. “It actually is crazy.”

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The Lost Husband 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in a 30 hour period and could barely put the book down. I did not want to stop until I got to the end. When I reached the final line... I wished that the book never had to end. The story was about life, love and the lessons we learn along the way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great beach read. Somewhat predictable but with some twists. Characters make morally acceptable choices for the most part. I would recommend>
Anonymous 20 days ago
This was a great story and had some laughs. There were tears as well. Kept my interest until the very end. Was hoping to find a sequel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read. Insightful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this for a quick poolside book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book could not put down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very good read. Caught myself chuckling at some of the situations
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good book, believeable characters and good twists to entertain. All in all, enjoyable. A light read.
Bitten-By-Love-Reviews More than 1 year ago
Libby Moran gets a letter out of the blue from her crazy Aunt Jean, wanting to rescue her and her two children from her mother. Two years prior Libby lost her husband and wasn't sure what to do next. The letter also states there will be a job, and a place to live in the Texas Hill Country. Without thinking anymore about it, Libby packs her stuff, and kids into a minivan and hits the road. Life isn't what she excepted it to be on her Aunt Jean's goat farm. Its deep country quietness makes this place mysterious and wonderful...she feels at peace. There is the shaggy, gruff, farm manager who hides behind his hair, has a tragic home life, then there is a formally famous store clerk who claim she can contact Danny "on the other side" , plus there is her Aunt she barely knows and is very eccentric. Libby comes to realize she is finding more and more about herself and her life. She seems to feel like she has found the place that feels like home and brings her the family she always felt she needed. This book was a tear jerker that pulled out your heartstrings. You watch as this widow grows into herself as well as her children. There are secrets that are uncovered that throws many for a loop...then there is the romance between Libby and James O'Connor that grows from when they first meet till the ending. Katherine Center did a fabulous job in creating a world where you and tossed into a whirl wind of emotions and watch it become something truly amazing like it could and would happen in the real world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mengel2 More than 1 year ago
After Libby’s husband gets into a car accident that takes his life and injures their daughter, Libby’s forced to sell all of their possessions and move back home with her overly judgmental mother.  It’s not easy to pick up the pieces of your life when you find out that your husband had secretly spent all of your savings and cashed in his life insurance.   The last few years, since Danny died, have not been easy.  But living with her mother for the last two years has made it damn near unbearable.  Until one day she receives a letter from her crazy Aunt Jean offering for Libby and her kids to stay with her in exchange for helping out on the goat farm.  Although Libby doesn’t know her Aunt Jean, only stories that her mother has told her, she realizes that this is an offer she can’t refuse.  Nothing can be worse than her current living situation.  So Libby packs up the kids and heads out to the farm.  But Aunt Jean is nothing like how Libby’s mother portrayed her to be.  Libby also realizes that living a modest life on the farm, although very different from what she’s used to, is actually very relaxing and enjoyable.  While on the farm, Libby makes some unexpected friends, learns about secrets that will change her life forever and realizes that things aren’t always what they seem.   From the very first page, I knew that I’d love this book.  The story was very heartwarming, yet the author brilliantly mixed in the right amount of humor.  I found myself near tears one minute and then the next chuckling at something funny that happened or was said.  I also really loved each character.  They were all so different, yet shared a major similarity.  They all just wanted to be loved and accepted.  They were all very likeable and relatable as well.   Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was well written, the story kept you interested and it tugged at your heart strings.  I think this book would make a wonderful book club choice.  There is so much that could be discussed about this book and had topics that many can relate to.  This book is a must read.  I loved it and feel that you would too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mamawnina More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, I love the author's writing style , and I will watching for more books from her !
Mickeymarie More than 1 year ago
A nice, sweet story It's just an all around pleasant, enjoyable book. No, it might not be full of unexpected moments but it is quite well written. The author writes beautifully about loss and carrying on because time is fleeting. I'm so glad I picked this book up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this quick read ...finished in two nights i saw it on a friends goodreads list glad i did looking forward to her other three books listed at end which i ordered
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It screams, "Beach Book." Well developed and real characters, witty dialogue. and about people grounded in real life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
irishclaireKG More than 1 year ago
Predictable. the same time a thoroughly fun read. There is nothing wildly original here: woman must reinvent her life after she is widowed but the characters and setting are very appealing. As someone familiar with the Hill Country described, I can say the author captures that atmosphere and the lovely aunt who 'rescues' our protagonist has wonderful secrets of her own that make for a couple of engaging twists. The love interest fell flat for me as the author spends so much time describing him in terms that would more favor a Sasquatch, I found it hard to readjust my view when he cleans up. All that being said, this novel is a perfectly good way to spend a rainy afternoon while curled up in a favorite chair.