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The Center of Everything Hardcover – July 2, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1st edition (July 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401300316
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401300319
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (298 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Laura Moriarty's debut novel is a simple story, but effectively told. Ten-year-old Evelyn Bucknow lives with her not very responsible young mother, Tina, on the outskirts of a small Kansas town. The Center of Everything follows a clean arc: How Evelyn, a gifted but poor student, negotiates the pitfalls of her background to become a college student. The book shows the scary tenuousness of poverty. When Tina's car breaks down, their life falls apart like a flimsy cardboard edifice. Evelyn can't get to school, Tina can't get to work, and unseemly relationships with men who own cars develop. The novel's other theme is the importance of teaching; when one of her teachers tells her she's gifted, Evelyn's life is changed. "She takes off her glasses, still looking at me. I take off my glasses too, because for a moment I think she is going to place them on my eyes, the way you place a crown on someone's head when they become queen. Welcome to being smart." As she heads into adolescence, Evelyn sees her best friend fall in love and become pregnant, just as Tina did when she was a teenager. Evelyn resists these traps, not without some lovelorn, lonely moments. The Center of Everything careens dangerously near fingerwagging at times, but the book's salvation comes from unexpected quarters: Evelyn's mom Tina. At the outset, she seems beleaguered and lost, but as the book progresses she develops a wry resiliency. We get to watch Evelyn and Tina grow up together, and it's a rare sight. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

For 10-year-old Evelyn Bucknow, there really is no place like home. On all the world maps she's ever seen, the United States has been smack dab in the middle, with Kansas in the middle of that. "I feel so lucky to live here, right in the center," she proclaims, in Moriarty's wonderfully down-to-earth debut. Dazzled by visions of Ronald Reagan on the television, the twinkle in his eye and his contention that "God put America between two oceans on purpose," Evelyn's youthful optimism is shaken by her young single mother Tina's inability to take control of her life. As Tina falls for her married boss, who gives her a car (his contribution to the trickle-down theory) but leaves her pregnant and shattered, Evelyn grows closer to her neighbor, a curly-haired scamp named Travis (who has eyes only for Evelyn's stunning friend, Deena) and her Bible-thumping grandmother, a regular listener to Jerry Falwell's radio show. As a teenager, she is influenced by a couple of liberal-minded teachers, one an emigre from New York and the other an introverted biology instructor intent on teaching evolution, but she never cuts her family ties. With renewed faith in her scatterbrained but endearing mother and with college on the horizon, she begins to find her place in the social and political spectrum and to appreciate the vastness of a world that just might extend beyond the Sunflower State. 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Laura Moriarty received her master's degree from the University of Kansas and was awarded the George Bennett Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy. The author of The Center of Everything, The Rest of Her Life, and While I'm Falling, she lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Customer Reviews

I liked the story and the book, just not the ending.
Amazon Customer
I thought the author did a good job of creating characters that were complicated and real.
The characters were developed well and realistically, and the story flowed well.
Kindle Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was quite surprised to read that the previous reviewer found this book "depressing", I found it completely daughter saw this book in SEVENTEEN Magazine and HAD to have it...she loved it so much that I read it as husband is reading it now, too...I wish this book had been around when I was growing up....the main character, Evelyn, does face many hardships, and Moriarty completely nails what it feels like to live on the outskirts of nowhereville, but she learns through trial and error that your choices define you more than your circumstances....the voice of Evelyn rings so true, and I love that the mother, Tina, is neither a saint nor a sinner...details about the 1980's, from a child's perspective, bring the story to life...I am going to recommend this book to everyone...anyone who feels that life isn't always fair will find this book inspiring....very well written, apparently this is her first novel, and I would love to read more of her work.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Michelaneous by Michele on September 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The writing is excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Through the fresh voice of a wise young girl, Evelyn Bucknow, her life in the state of Kansas and all the supporting characters surrounding her come alive. She is indeed the center of everything and we immediately respect her--especially her ability to rise above very unfortunate circumstances. No matter how eccentric, bizarre or pathetic the people in her life are, we see them through her loving eyes. Even characters that might be considered villains, her proud and bitter mother, the snobby classmate and her equally snobby sidekick for example, are all presented with redeeming qualities.

With several historical references, even if they're only as far back as the 1980s, the story is believable and well told. We've all shared many of Evelyn's thoughts while coming of age. A quick read with exceptional attention to detail, I think it's well worth your time.

Michele Cozzens, Author of A Line Between Friends and The Things I Wish I'd Said.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By D. Latlip on September 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book because of the Mockingbird comparison on the back of the book jacket. Although I don't consider it as good as Mockingbird, the narration is similar. I loved Evelyn from the start; her voice was fresh and most of all, honest. Her relationship with her struggling mother was sad, but so real. One thing I really liked about this novel was that it didn't end up 'happily ever after' for the characters...the ending was a bit abrupt and I was a little angry that it didn't tie up all loose ends, but that's life. Even though there wasn't a 'happily ever after' theme here, the reader gets the impression that Evelyn is going to choose a path completely different than her mother's. I found myself laughing at the references to the '80s and I could identify with a lot of Evelyn's viewpoints on the world around her (her internal conflict over the religion vs. evolution debate, for example). I did think that her voice matured throughout the novel, her growth apparent in the scene with her in Travis' car toward the end of the novel. This is a novel worth reading, appropriate for the teenager as well as the adult reader.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A quick read, this book takes us into the lives of essentially good people who struggle to become more than their circumstances and histroy might dictate. Each, in their own way, achieves a measure of success, although it is likely that Evelyn will be the only one who is ultimately able to recognize and nurture a personal center that will allow her to fully blossom. I would have liked to have seen greater development of at least some of the many significant events and difficulties that beset this Kansas community. Possibly this was intentional, allowing the reader to enter into the resolution in a less directive manner. Laura Moriarity is a promising writer with a knack for protraying the human condition in a positive and hopeful light, emphasizing again the importance of relationship and compassion for each person.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Weinhold on July 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Everyone is saying this has the distinct voice of To Kill a Mockingbird and it really is very similar. The story is not really like Mockingbird but the narrative perspective is told in the same way by Evelyn Bucknow. The book covers eight years of Evelyn's adolescence--from 10 years onto her graduation from high school. Her mother is constantly trying to make ends meet financially, and she loves Evelyn deeply. There is a great schism in the family because Tina, Evelyn's mother, had her out of wedlock. Tina's parents are extreme fundamentalists that will not let her forget her past. When Tina becomes pregnant again with a married man's baby, the problems start all over again, and Evelyn's grandmother, Eileen, is the only family that will talk to them.
Evelyn's brother, Samuel, is born prematurely and it is soon obvious that he is mentally handicapped. Tina's role in the book changes to constant caretaker of Samuel, and Evelyn moves into her teenage years nearly alone. Her grandmother begins taking her to church, and Evelyn finds some answers there... yet she struggles with questions when one of her favorite teachers in school, Ms. Jenkins, becomes the target of a smear campaign by the fundamentalists for teaching evolution to the children. Evelyn's struggle to decide whether to side with her grandmother and the "nice people at the church" or her teacher shows exactly how Evelyn is certainly in the center of everything.
The Center of Everything brings together many situations that Evelyn must confront--and she is a strong girl who has a very wise voice for someone so young.
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