Summary and book reviews of The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty

The Center of Everything

by Laura Moriarty

The Center of Everything
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2003, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2004, 304 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

In this 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, Evelyn Bucknow learns early how to fend for herself.

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 . . . in The Center of Everything.

Chapter One

Ronald Reagan is on television, giving a speech because he wants to be president. He has the voice of a nice person, and something in his hair that makes it shiny under the lights. I change the channel, but it’s still him, just from a different angle.

The people in the audience wear cowboy hats with REAGAN printed on the front, and they clap and blow horns every time he stops talking, so much that sometimes he has to put his hands up so they’ll be quiet and hear what he’s going to say next. Nancy Reagan sits behind him, smiling and wearing a peach-colored dress with a bow on one of the shoulders, no cowboy hat. She claps too, but only after everyone else has started, so it looks like while he is talking, she is maybe thinking about something else.

"She’s a mannequin," my mother says, pointing a spatula at the television. "She freaks me out."

My mother is maybe the opposite of Nancy Reagan. I could never imagine her wearing the peach...

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.


Discussion Questions


  1. 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?

  2. What do you think of Evelyn, Tina, and Eileen? What about Tina's father? What kind of people are they? What do they look ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Atlanta Journal Constitution

The great strength of this debut novel is the wonderfully clear voice of its protagonist, Evelyn Buchnow…

Arizona Republic

The heart of the book is…Evelyn. She is funny, smart and fiercely observant.

Time Out New York

Absorbing and emotionally generous…there's no shortage of wry humor and evocative details of time and place.

Christian Science Moniter

The secret to Moriarty's success is pitch-perfect voice and unfailing restraint.

San Diego Union Tribune

Teriffic. . . . Moriarty has steady confidence…expertly wringing poignancy from…young lives. . . . A deeply satisfying novel.

Chicago Tribune

Graceful and poignant.

Denver Post & Rocky Mountain News

Lively and endearing . . . a complete tour of . . . conflicts between mother and daughter, as well as between the narrator's hopes and dreams.

Janet Maslin, The New York Times

. . .a warm, beguiling book full of hard-won wisdom.

O Magazine

Realistic and familiar as a summer day in Kansas -- brave and gritty, strong voiced and spare.

Time Out New York

Moriarty creates empathetic, engaging characters and situations.

Entertainment Weekly

A winning first novel. A+

Elle

Make room on that shelf . . . for The Center of Everything.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The magic was spun by Mona Simpson in Anywhere But Here and by Alice Seybold in The Lovely Bones and it is spun again by Moriarty.

Publishers Weekly

Moriarty deftly treads the line between adolescence and adulthood, and insecurity and self-assurance, offering a moving portrait of life in blue-collar middle America.

Kirkus Reviews

....while Moriarty is no fancy prose stylist, she listens carefully to the speech of her characters, and Evelyn and Tina's voices, especially, ring true without sounding dopey or sentimental. Among the plethora of first novels tracking preteen daughters of sorry single mothers, Moriarty's gutsy opener is hard not to like.

Library Journal - Rachel Collins

Moriarty builds an addictive and moving portrait of this poor, Midwestern girl in the Eighties, reminiscent of Dolores in Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, so well realized that one forgets it is fiction and so infectious that one never wants to put it down, even after turning to the last page. Essential for fiction collections.

Author Blurb Christina Schwartz
This impressive debut is a marvelously satisfying story . . . Moriarty eschews tough questions . . . competing loves and loyalties of adolescence.

Reader Reviews

Syeda Mujeeb

Really cute and enticing at the same time
Loved it. I wish it were a little longer so I could have know more of Evelyn's story.. But otherwise it's beautifully written.

Caitlin H

Spectacular to be at 'The Center of Everything'
A very literal true love story of learning to let go and grow up. Life decisions coming fast outside of Evelyn's home as well in it with her special brother Samuel. But the ending leaves us wanting more. What does Laura Moriarty have in store for us...   Read More

pamela

This is one of the best books I have ever read in my life, I couldn't put it down!!!I can't wait until Laura Moriarty's next book comes out!

Anonymous

This book has feeling, i'm both sad and happily reminiscing on my youth.
It forces you to look back and see the choices you made. I found myself feeling the emotions of the charactrers. I listen to a lot of books (if you listen, Julie Dretzin does a ...   Read More

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