We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley is the kind of book you read when you really want to argue with someone, but you don’t want to damage all of your personal relationships.
Catherine West is forty-four years old, and leads a pretty charmed life. She’s a member of the one percent with a $80,000 payout from a trust deposited to her every single month. She owns a greeting card shop called leaf that sells nothing but blank cards featuring the work of independent artists. She’s recently met a man named William Stockton, and their budding romance promises to be the relationship that Catherine has always dreamed of.
But then things fall apart. Catherine finds out that the trust that’s been supporting her lifestyle since her father’s death is gone. The monthly payouts have stopped coming, and with that comes the end to her way of life. But the end of the trust brings new revelations and secrets that come to the surface.
I don’t think I’ve ever argued with a fictional character more in my entire reading life! It could just be that Catherine West is unlikeable to me because of all the talk about wealth disparity in the United States, or it could be that she’s a character that has never taken responsibility for her own actions!
The fact that this book has inspired such animosity in me just tells me that Swan Huntley’s writing is amazing. I love the way she writes, and I love the way she’s crafted Catherine. But that doesn’t change the fact that I cannot stand Catherine West.
Catherine West is a member of the one percent, and her life is pretty charmed for the first half of the book. She’s met a great guy, she’s invested in art, and she has an overpriced greeting card shop called Leaf where she likes to showcase independent artists. She has the time to worry about the shades of white in her house, and ordering frivolous linens online. She doesn’t worry about the accounting or any numbers, because in her own words,it doesn’t interest her.
Still, Catherine is proud of this business she’s built, even though she has to bail the shop out almost every month. Even when she sells $130 on an average day, that doesn’t distress her. Instead she soldiers on and bails the shop out. You know what this is? It’s a hobby. Her shop is her hobby that she’s turned into something that defines herself.
She’s also not a dog person, which is a problem for me when her boyfriend has a dachshund she’s secretly praying will be struck down and killed by a divine power while simultaneously praying she won’t get uterine cancer like the woman in the priest’s homily! I have a dachshund! I take personal offense to this Catherine!
Even when Catherine finds out that the trust is gone, she refuses to take personal responsibility for her actions. She puts the blame on their accountant, the bank, her sister, anyone but herself. This behavior alone is infuriating, and thats before we even get into William and Catherine’s relationship, which seems to simultaneously be the most important and least important part of her life.
As the book moves on, Catherine focuses on wedding details, and more and more I started to see red flags regarding William’s background, things that don’t bother Catherine at all, but do seem to bother her friend Susan! Catherine’s naïveté is hard to watch, and might be a cautionary tale at times.
Over the course of the book there is a tone shift that makes the book a little more readable, and may have led me to feel a little sympathy towards Catherine and her family, until the very end.
When all is said and done, I really did enjoy We Could Be Beautiful. Despite Catherine’s superficial attitude towards the beginning of the book, the writing is good, and the mystery is compelling enough that I felt driven to finish it. As much as I disliked the main character, she was consistent in her actions and everything that Catherine did felt natural. I just wouldn’t let me dog near her.
FINAL RATING: 4 Stars