Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe
by Jennie Shortridge

Published: 2008-05-06
Paperback : 367 pages
15 members reading this now
4 clubs reading this now
2 members have read this book
What made you want to write this book? What was the idea that sparked your imagination? I started out wanting to explore the question of what if the worst possible thing happened inside a marriage? How would each partner react, and could they overcome it? Would true love prevail? But what I ...
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What made you want to write this book? What was the idea that sparked your imagination? I started out wanting to explore the question of what if the worst possible thing happened inside a marriage? How would each partner react, and could they overcome it? Would true love prevail? But what I ended up writing (because the story always changes and grows from beginning to end) was the story of an evolution of a woman, with or without her marriage, her family, all of those things that we think make us us. I also hate how middle-aged women are portrayed in our society. I look all around me at my friends and see sexy, vibrant, interesting women who are gorgeous with their lines, their softer padding, their inner wisdom and experience. I wanted to write about that side of middle age as well as all the other not-so-pleasant stuff that comes with it: the hot flashes, the pierced children, the wondering where the car keys have gotten to. If we can view ourselves a bit more holistically, then I think we’ll realize how wonderful we are. What do you want readers to take away with them after reading the book? I always want readers to get from my books what delights me when I read books: that sense that we are not alone. We are all human, with frailties and strengths, passions and blind spots, and that by simply understanding ourselves and others better, we can help make the world a better place. At least a happier, more loving place. What do I really, really want? I’d like them to laugh a little, cry a little, stay up too late reading, and feel they’ve just spent quality time with a friend.

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Her father looked like the man on television, the handsome Italian they watched sing on Saturday nights, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. He stood shaving at the sink in his undershirt, thick black hair combed back in waves, suspenders dangling from uniform pants. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Questions for Discussion

1. Main character Mira Serafino enjoys being part of her big Italian “familia.” In what ways does her extended family help and support her, and in what ways do they perhaps keep her from becoming her true self?
2. Mira struggles with the duality of her nature. On one hand, she seems driven to be the perfect woman: a good wife, mother, daughter, and career woman. On the other hand, she wrestles with secret desires and unsettling feelings. Do most women in our society face this dilemma?
3. How does Mira’s family history and the early loss of her mother affect who she becomes as an adult and her relationships with her family members, husband, and daughter?
4. Four generations of women are depicted in this story. How does each—the grandmother, the mother, Mira, and her daughter Thea—impact and influence the other? What does Nonna pass down through the generations, and how do each of the younger generations either accept or refuse it?
5. Why does Mira run away from home? Do you think she’s justified, or are her actions irrational and irresponsible? Do you think she should have stayed and tried to work it out with her husband Parker?
6. Mira makes a new life in Seattle at the Coffee Shop at the Center of the Universe. Why do you think she chooses this? Is it really only because it’s where her car breaks down, or is it because, as she says, “she landed in this Oz, like Dorothy, for a reason”?
7. Why is Thea angry with Mira? Is it simple mother-daughter separation, or are there deeper reasons behind it?
8. Betrayal and abandonment are central issues in this story. How many characters feel they are betrayed or abandoned, and in what ways?
9. The story starts in a small town on the idyllic coast of Oregon and ends up in the noisy hubbub of an urban neighborhood in Seattle. How does this relate to Mira’s personal journey as well as physical?
10. What does Mira learn from her male relationships at the coffee shop? From Gus? Doug? Martin?
11. How has Mira changed by the end of the story? Why does she make the final decision she does?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Dear Readers,

Like me, my latest character is a perfectionist who suffers the indignities of perimenopause: sweaty pjs (not from anything fun), brain fog, and bungee-jumping mood swings.

Unlike me, Mira goes a little crazy when the first domino in her “perfect” life falls, sending the others tumbling. She flees her husband, family, and idyllic Oregon coast hometown wearing only a thong and bathrobe and accompanied by a singing dog named Patsy Cline. She lands in the Oz-like Center of the Universe, Seattle, where she comes to grips with love, life, sex, and making the perfect cup of coffee.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll make an appointment with your OB/GYN for more hormones. I hope you’ll also enjoy the story of Mira’s journey from perfection to accepting herself for who she really is.

Happy reading!


Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "very good book"by edandtee (see profile) 10/24/08

We enjoyed the book and were very fortunate to be able to call the author to talk to her about the book. Jennie was fun to talk to and we all liked the book. We found the woman's midlife crisis a good... (read more)

  "Good discussion"by marciasizzi (see profile) 10/24/08

Generated lots of discussion. The book had a character each member of the book club could relate to. Great choice.

  "A family in a full blown identity crisis decides who they are and who they want to become."by Jacquemott (see profile) 12/01/08

Enjoyed the book but was disappointed in the somewhat predictable ending of 'and they all lived happily ever after.'

Mira shoulders all of the responsibility for her disfunctional family.

... (read more)

  "Husband is thinking about leaving his wife, she finds out and leaves town altogether for 3 months to get away. She finds herself along the way."by cmanion (see profile) 11/11/08

This was a fun book to discuss. The duality of her life lent to a lot of interesting questions. We were able to dig alittle deeper and try and figure out what really made her do what she did.

  "A funny and poignant story about running away from it all and finding yourself!!"by Dusty (see profile) 07/04/08

Mira is a mess. Let's face it: she's having hot flashes and forgetting things, and her daughter hates her, and she has too many rescue dogs running around the house, but she keeps clinging t... (read more)

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