Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide The following author biography, critical praise and list of questions about The Center of Everything, are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this novel. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Center of Everything.
Who is narrating? What historic or other signposts are available to the reader so that the story can be located in time and place? To whom or what does the title refer?
What do you think of Evelyn, Tina, and Eileen? What about Tina's father? What kind of people are they? What do they look like? What is Sam's role in the family and in the story? Share your impressions of other characters that stand out, and why.
When do you learn the narrator's name? What is going on in the story when this occurs? What, if any, is the significance of the scene where the narrator's name is revealed?
How does Moriarty use language to reflect the experiences and thoughts of the characters? Examine and discuss whether or not Evelyn's thoughts and spoken words are reflective of a child's point of view, and why. Share some examples that you find effective and/or moving.
How do Evelyn's feelings about her mother affect your feelings about Tina? Explore whether or not you are sympathetic or disgusted by Tina, and why. At the end of Chapter 11, why does Evelyn not wipe her mother's kiss off of her forehead? Share some examples of how Moriarty brings out the mother/daughter relationship and whether or not you can relate to it, and why.
Why do you believe Tina doesn't speak to her father? How do you respond when you learn that he told the family that a "little horse" is coming to dinner? Discuss this scene, and its implications. Consider how such a small phrase can reveal so much.
The car that doesn't shift is one of the many symbols Moriarty uses. What is its symbolism? Share some of the other symbols used throughout the story and how they are utilized.
Discuss the whole school milieu that Moriarty evokes in The Center of Everything. What are the roles of friendship pins and particular pieces of clothing in the lives of grade-school kids? What are your memories and experiences of these years? Share whether or not you think Moriarty successfully conveys these school experiences, and why.
Discuss the use of religion as a recurring theme throughout the book. As a storytelling device, what purpose does it serve? Why would a man as "religious" as Tina's father shun his daughter and be so unforgiving? How does Eileen live her beliefs? How does religion affect Evelyn? What happens at the church meeting with the healer? Why do people believe in healers? Share whether or not Tina comes to believe in some sort of religion, and why.
Why does Moriarty use the struggle between evolution and creationism in the story? What makes it particularly useful here? Why do people have this debate? Examine whether or not the characters' positions ring true, and why. What would you say to those who have different beliefs than yours?
Do you believe Deena's pregnancy is motivated by Travis' change of plans? Should Evelyn have shared this Deena? What position does Evelyn put herself in by doing this?
How does the car accident that kills Traci affect Evelyn? What motivates Evelyn to initially keep Traci's belongings hidden? Examine the significance and possible symbolism of Evelyn hanging onto Traci's clothes and locket into high school, and what they represent to Evelyn after Traci's death.
Discuss the underlining theme throughout the novel of being chosen or not being chosen.
Discuss Moriarty's use of foreshadowing throughout The Center of Everything. How does it influence your reading?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Hyperion.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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