Review: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

by Heather Caliendo
How to Walk Away Review - Book Club Chat

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center is at times heartbreaking but also hopeful. It covers the hard journey one faces in the aftermath of a tragedy. It’s one not to miss.

As I mentioned in my preview, this one has received plenty of buzz from the bookish folks on Instagram. When you have that many people heap praise, it’s definitely a good sign. For me, though, I didn’t expect such an emotional story. And while yes, the story is predicable in some ways, in many ways it isn’t.

When we meet protagonist Margaret Jacobsen, she has a bright future. She’s about to nab her dream job and knows she’ll soon be engaged. In other words, she’s taking the big steps to adulthood. But a freak accident robs her of everything she planned for and much more. A majority of the novel takes place in the hospital setting while Margaret receives care. During her stay, she experiences heartbreak, depression and doubts about her own strength. But she also finds out how resilient she truly is.

Realistic tone

Center made so many story choices that felt realistic to me. How to Walk Away takes place in Austin and so many description of it—from the people to the tacos—rang true. Also, Margaret’s dream job isn’t some glamorous gig on the way to fame, but instead business development for an energy company.

Center wrote this story in first-person past narrative from Margaret’s point of view. And despite the tragedy, Margaret still has a sense of humor. Her internal observations are, at times, hilarious as well as the interactions with people around her. Margaret will remind you of someone you know, maybe even yourself. It can’t be underestimated how hard it is to make people sound real in novels and Center definitely achieved it.

Life’s challenges

Still, though, while yes, there’s plenty of the comedy, the story revolves around a serious topic: overcoming a tragedy. While what happens to Margaret is extraordinary, I think most have experienced some type of event that completely changes course. You’re going one direction and have all kinds of plans but something happens and you have to make a slight curve to another direction. Whatever was going to happen in that original direction, is gone forever. And that’s exactly what happens to Margaret. It’s up to her to figure out what’s next.

Another note, Center clearly did her research on plane crashes, operations and life-changing injuries.

A love story

There’s a great cast of characters in this one. I loved her quirky sister and their dynamic. Her parents also appear quite often and have their own challenges as well. You also meet characters you won’t like at all, you’ll know it when they come in. Luckily, their time is short in the novel.

In the end, this is also a love story. It’s truly heartwarming, especially after everything Margaret has been through. The romance is believable and it’s not perfect by any means.

But the story doesn’t just feature a romantic love story. It’s also about Margaret learning self-love and independence. For instance, Margaret says:

You have to live the life you have. You have to find inspiration in the struggle, and pull joy out of the hardship.

How to Walk Away is a quick read and while it might seem like another love story, there’s so much more going on. Highly recommend it!

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