Friday, September 12, 2014

Book review: The Center of Everything

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

In Laura Moriarty's extraordinary first novel, a young girl tries to make sense of an unruly world spinning around her. Growing up with a single mother who is chronically out of work and dating a married man, 10-year old Evelyn Bucknow learns early how to fend for herself.

Offering an affecting portrayal of a troubled mother/daughter relationship, one in which the daughter is very often expected to play the role of the adult, the novel also gives readers a searing rendering of the claustrophobia of small town midwestern life, as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Evelyn must come to terms with the heartbreaking lesson of first love -- that not all loves are meant to be -- and determine who she is and who she wants to be. Stuck in the middle of Kansas, between best friends, and in the midst of her mother's love, Evelyn finds herself . . . inThe Center of Everything.

The University of Kansas (my alma mater and previous employer) started a program called the Common Book. Each year, they select a book they ask the incoming class to read. They bring the author to campus and hold discussions on the book and no one reads it and the events are awkward and it’s generally a great time.

This year, they selected The Center of Everything, which, compared to previous books, I think they actually have a good chance of people reading. I read it, anyway.

The Center of Everything Takes place in Kansas in the 80s. It covers a lot of time -- the main character, Evelyn, is in grade school when the book starts. It ends when she is graduating high school. So it’s maybe not as detailed about the ins and outs of everyday life as books that cover a shorter span of time.

Personally, I thought that was kind of cool -- we got to see Evelyn grow up a lot because it was broader. There are several overarching struggles Evelyn has in this book: her relationship with her mother, who is a single mom. Evelyn’s father has never been in the picture, and as Evelyn grows up, she starts to realize what that means and what others think of her mom because of it. Her relationship with religion is also a huge topic. This is Kansas, after all, and we get to see Evelyn find a place in religion, but then see how that shifts as she grows and changes. There are a few more overarching topics we see her grapple with over the years, but I don’t want to give too much away.

And of course, there is a boy. He’s a boy she thinks is perfect; but a boy who also shows what her life could have been if she’d been prettier, or if she’d skipped school more, or if she’d just made different decisions.

The first half of this book -- the younger years -- was good, but it was a little more work for me to get through. Once Evelyn got to high school, though, I really enjoyed her story. I gave it three stars.

Have any of you read The Center of Everything? What did you think?

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