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The Center of Everything

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  7,521 Ratings  ·  874 Reviews
A dazzling debut in the tradition of Jane Hamilton and Mona Simpson.

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

Paperback, 291 pages
Published July 14th 2004 by Hachette Books (first published 2003)
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Beat Jd That's the very beauty of it. Because of its unadulterated simplicity, prepubescent kids and teenagers (like me) could very much relate to it. To be…moreThat's the very beauty of it. Because of its unadulterated simplicity, prepubescent kids and teenagers (like me) could very much relate to it. To be honest, this book is my solace whenever I'm feeling the blues of being a teenager.(less)
Michelle I listened to the audiobook as well and thought the same thing - that I was missing at least a scene or two to wrap things up. The final scene was…moreI listened to the audiobook as well and thought the same thing - that I was missing at least a scene or two to wrap things up. The final scene was with Evelyn babysitting Samuel so her mother could go on a date. The two go outside to watch the thunderstorm that is moving in. The clouds erase their shadows on the concrete, the first fat raindrops fall, then..........THE END. I would have rated the book 5 stars, but the abrupt ending makes it 4 stars.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 14, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 04, 2007 K rated it it was amazing
Wow -- I couldn't put this down. Which is a funny thing to say, because it wasn't a pageturner in the classic sense; not plot-driven or particularly suspenseful. I just found the heroine and her story very engaging. I also liked the way many of the characters managed to be both jerky and sympathetic -- complex, in other words, something that's missing from many books! Finally, I think it was sweetly nostalgic for me to read about a heroine growing up in the 80s, whose developmental clock pretty ...more
Mar 01, 2008 Cissy rated it did not like it
Not great at all. I had a hard time with this coming-of-age story mostly because I never really believed the main character (Evelyn) was 12 to start off. She always seems like the 17-year-old she is at the end. Actually, it would be more believable if she were an adult reminiscing, because that is how her voice sounded. Also unfortunate: every character (except Evelyn) is disagreeable. I was glad in the end that Evelyn managed to "get away" from all those other characters, but mostly just so the ...more
Aug 20, 2007 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
Wonderful read!

As one goodreads reviewer said, it's a book you find yourself reflecting on even when you aren't reading it. I often found myself thinking about Evelyn while at work, driving in the car, or cooking dinner. Because it is a coming-of-age story set in the 1980's I was able to relate to the political and pop culture references, making Evelyn even more dear to my heart.

I was satisfied with the ending but was sad to say goodbye. Although I wouldn't classify this as "chick lit," I thin
Jun 15, 2009 Diane rated it it was amazing
The Center of Everything, by Laura Moriarty, is one of those rare books that readers devour, then are sorry when the last word appears. Moriarty, transplanted to Kansas as an adult after a lifetime of living in various places in the United States, illuminates the Kansas character and the Kansas landscape in a way few people have done before. She does so with loving, witty language, telling the story through the voice of a young, wise, yet naïve narrator. Evelyn, whose story this is, sees all and ...more
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
Dec 01, 2009 Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym) rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
Laura Moriarty writes beautifully, which is why I was fully along for the ride with her for the first third or so of the book. But once I realized that this was going to be a meandering coming-of-age story with no center and no particular lesson learned, I got restless and felt I was being subjected to an elaborate writing exercise called "remember the 1980s".

This book could have been saved for me easily: if something, ANYTHING, happened to the narrator, instead of her simply watching things unf
Sep 06, 2015 Kit★ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardcover
I picked this up back in high school, one of many I mass-ordered by signing up for the various book-of-the-month by mail clubs. I used to do all of 'em. '10 books for $1! Just pay shipping.' You know the ones. The little blurb in the catalog sounded interesting, so I got it... and then never read it for 10+ years. Finally, it was picked for me for the 2nd Quarterly Pick-It-For-Me deal in Bookworm Buddies. I was late getting to it, like every other dadgum book I've read this year, but it's done n ...more
Claude Forthomme
Jul 22, 2011 Claude Forthomme rated it really liked it
Haven't finished this yet but it's a remarkable "slice of life" novel - very well written from the point of view of a 14 year old, facing an impossible world - narrow-minded on one side and so religious, liberal on the other and so sinful!

A must read in my opinion. The only drawback (and the reason I gave it 4 stars) is that in the end it doesn't "gel": all the threads of the story don't really come together in a climax - which is the way a good story should always be. This stays a "slice of lif
Aug 24, 2007 Kate rated it it was ok
I may have kept reading because of the storyline's similarity to my own life-- the "smart" child living with her young, single mother. It's realistic; life is difficult (an anti-Gilmore Girls).

My complaint is the redundancy of failed relationships and failed marriages for virtually all the characters. The only happy marriages are on the fringe and you don't get to know those couples. It feels unbalanced. Apparently Moriarty is trying to make a point.

The theme of the "center of everything," from
May 28, 2012 Kelly rated it liked it
This is a perfect example of a book that really doesn't go anywhere, nothing extraordinary really happens, but you'll follow along with enthusiasm because the author knows how to turn a phrase. It's also fascinating if you came from this midwestern lifestyle and knew people just like the characters portrayed in the book.

The cast of characters drives the piece when the plot meanders. We have the free-spirited woman who never learns from her mistakes until she is trapped by them in Evelyn's mothe
Aug 27, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I was told to read this by a BFF and she was so right! You will love this coming-of-age book told through the eyes of Evelyn, growing up in smalltown Kansas with her single Mom, Tina. Evelyn is bright, real, and the way she interacts with the variety of people who touch her life make this novel one you will have a hard time putting down. I love how interested she is in school- the way she describes her classes, teachers, and the learning material was a refresher course for me. I relearned and re ...more
Nov 23, 2007 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Center of Everything is one of those rare coming of age novels full of emotional pathos and personal growth that somehow touches a deep nerve within, especially if you were about the same age in the Reagan era 80's as protagonist Evelyn Bucknow. It is a novel about a smart girl living in a small Kansas town with her overwhelmingly depressed, trampy "welfare queen" mother searching for a better path in life than the path her mother chose. Told from Evelyn's perspective between the ages of 10 ...more
May 26, 2011 Jessie rated it it was ok
I would probably give 1.5 if I could. I was really dissapointed because I loved the last book I read by this author. I really like her style of writing as well. Unfortunately, with this one she decided to mix religion with her story and her "research" was so far off the mark she ended up with a charicature instead of a character. It is so offensive to me it was hard to overlook and actually enjoy the story.
Joy H.
Added 6/15/15. I read part of this coming-of-age" novel but wasn't enjoying it enough to finish it.

I've tried other books by Laura Moriarty but so far, the only one I really enjoyed was her book, The Chaperone. This one has possibilities. It is told from the point of view of a young girl and includes her telling of her endless experiences as an adolescent and a young adult.

After a while, I got tired of the tone of the book, told by an adolescent girl, detailing all her adolescent observations in
Aug 27, 2016 Elisa rated it really liked it
A character-driven novel about the tragic and beautiful in all of us.
The everyday lives of ordinary people in a small town in Kansas show the sometimes devastating consequences of seemingly well-intentioned (but badly informed) decisions, like a guy picking the pretty girl instead of the right one and trying, years later, to make up for it in a half-assed and selfish way.
At the heart of this novel, the difficult but evolving mother-daughter relationship the narrator goes through from elementar
I fashioned found poems from lines I copied from various pages. It was more fun than writing a review.

I was out
on a bathroom pass once
and saw Travis Rowley
walking through the empty hallways,
his fingers running up and down
the locks of lockers,
like someone who plays piano
and doesn't need to look at the keys.

My mother says that
when Mrs. Rowley is mean,
which is generally the case,
it is really because she is just unhappy,
and who could blame her
with a husband like that,
and Travis al
Feb 28, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing
So grateful to my sister for recommending this one! Set in a small town in Kansas against the back drop of Reagan-era America, "The Center of Everything" is a coming of age novel about Evelyn Bucknow. Evelyn’s mom, Tina, is a young, unwed mother who is trying desperately to keep everything together on her own, despite society’s disapproval of her and the judgment she faces from her very religious family. Bright, sensual, and a bit progressive, Tina doesn’t fit in with the others around her, and ...more
Linda Lipko
Jan 10, 2012 Linda Lipko rated it it was amazing
Have you ever read a book wherein words simply cannot suffice to describe your thoughts and feelings? This is one of those books.

It is incredible, absorbing, emotionally ladened, spot on with perception, strong in character development, terrifically written, endearing, warm, sad, yet joyous and, at times, humorous.

This is the debut of Laura Moriarty and I'll be sure to read her next books.

Ten year old Evelyn Bucknow lives smack dab in the center of the United States in Kerrville, Kansas. Analogo
Mar 06, 2010 Stacy added it
Another great read, subconsiously recommended by my friend, Casey.
She reads the best books, I swear. I will always trust her judgement!

This book is about Eveyln Bucknow, a young girl, who deems her self unpretty, at the age of 10 - A misfit of sorts, with not very many friends, wild hair and tired eyes, and a young mother.
Eveyln and her mom are on the border of being desperately poor, with her mom taking hand-out from a local man, who gives her a job and a car. Then... as Evelyn grows up, so do
Clif Hostetler
Sep 08, 2014 Clif Hostetler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel
I read this before my days, thus I've not written a review of it. However, today's (Feb 15, 2013) PageADay Book Lover's Calendar had the following review which reminded me of it. This book is one of my all time favorite books.

A completely satisfying coming-of-age novel that manages to give you exactly what you expect from the genre, while always feeling freshly insightful. Ten-year-old Evelyn lives in Kansas, which she has been raised to believe is the exact center of the universe.
Feb 22, 2009 Claudia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every reader!
Recommended to Claudia by: Michael Prier
Evelyn navigates from the center: from Kansas, the center of every map of the US, from the center of the 80's, from the center of the conflict between her mother and her grandmother, from her religious fundamentalism and her love of science, from the strange triangle of her two best friends: Travis and Deena. Evelyn is an observer; long before she understands the subtleties of the world around her, she see them. In this way she reminds me so much of Scout in TKAM.

Evelyn's journey through the 80'
May 01, 2013 Margie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Margie by: Nancy
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed this. The first-person narration reflects the age of the narrator, Evelyn. At the beginning of the book she's 12, and 17 by the end. The sentences and thought patterns become longer and more nuanced as she grows older, reflecting Evelyn's growing maturity.

I thought Moriarty did a fine job of getting inside the head of someone at these various points along the way; struggling with beliefs and values and belonging (and longing). It rang true for me even though I didn't always sha
Aug 24, 2007 Punk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fiction. A young girl grows up in Kansas with her young, single mother. Moriarty writes like early Alice Hoffman, back when Hoffman was writing about gangs and wild savages and the drowning season. Moriarty has the same kind of gritty, dreamlike sensibility -- though less brutal than Hoffman's.

The subject matter of this book isn't normally the sort of thing that would attract me -- irresponsible mother with two kids, one of whom is developmentally disabled; child narrator -- but the excellent w
Oct 17, 2007 Joyce rated it liked it
Recommends it for: mothers/daughters
At heart, this is a story of hope, of how no matter how bad things may appear, they can get better. It follows Evelyn Bucknow's life from fifth grade through high school. She's living in an apartment in Kansas with her single mother in the 1980s, Tina. An outcast from her own family, because she got pregnant as a teen, Tina struggles to make ends meet and winds up in an affair with her boss. Seen from a fifth-grader's perspective the relationship is puzzling and winds up tragically. Evelyn and h ...more
Nov 15, 2015 Gina rated it really liked it
Very solid piece of writing. I think if this were the first Moriarty book I'd read I'd have enjoyed it a lot more, though. All of the reviews I've read for this book said it was her best piece of writing to date, and though I did very much enjoy it I don't think it lived up to the hype. It was very good, but The Rest Of Her Life was even better. And once again, I loved the mother/daughter dynamics in this book. It's my favorite thing about Moriarty's writing.
Steph Hundt
Jan 28, 2014 Steph Hundt rated it it was amazing
This is Moriarty's debut novel and she is a skilled storyteller! Evelyn is a 10 year old girl in 1982 when this novel opens. She is a spunky and spirited narrator. She is being raised by her single mother Tina and though Tina may have some flaws, you root for her and her family from start to finish. This novel had me staying up late to read it and thinking about the characters as I soaped up my hair in the shower. I LOVED it and I look forward to reading more of Moriarty's books in the future! ...more
Sep 09, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Likable heroine, good story!

I really, really enjoyed this book. It's still with me two days later, so passes my main test of a great read. I loved Eleanor. It is impossible not to root for her. It felt real, honest and rare. Never overdone, which would have been easy to do. I think I applaud the author's restraint most of all; she just let the story be.
Sep 30, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Well written, told from a preteen to teen protagonist. Interesting coming of age story set in the '80s.

If you must have high action and high drama, don't read this book, then pan it. But if you want a funny, well-pace literary novel, pick this one up.

I loved how real the characters and story felt, even though fictional license is used.
I highly recommend
Dec 20, 2014 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,5 stars. An interesting and well written coming of age story set in the 80's. Even though there is not much action or drama this book certainly kept me involved in the lives of all the characters.
May 26, 2015 Brookelyn rated it it was amazing
Beginning at age ten, The center of everything is a coming of age novel set in the 1980's about a girl named Evelyn. Her mother is the only person she lives with and the story follows the events of Evelyn's life and her ever changing relationship with her mom as she goes through middle school and high school, travesties and victories, love and hate.
Something I love about this book is that the maturity stays consistent. At first I didn't realize how young the character was but once I did nothing
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Goodreads Librari...: Wrong total pages 3 19 Aug 23, 2015 12:50PM  
What's The Name o...: Ya book about a girl growing up in low income apartment. [s] 5 44 Nov 04, 2013 01:01AM  
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Laura Moriarty earned a degree is social work before returning for her M.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. She was the recipient of the George Bennett Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. She currenly lives with her daughter in Lawrence, Kansas, and is at work on her next novel. (from
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“Shooting stars are not really stars at all but meteorites, burning their way through our atmosphere, sometimes landing in the oceans and in the middle of could make wishes on them if you like, but they are really just pieces of rock falling down from the sky, and they could land on your head and kill you just as you look up to make a wish. Really, they're just rocks. They don't care about your wishes at all.” 13 likes
“I know that sometimes when you are really worried about something, it ends up not being nearly as bad as you think it will be, and you get to be relieved that you were just being silly, worrying so much over nothing. But sometimes it is just the opposite. It can happen that whatever you are worried about will be even worse than you could have possibly imagined, and you find that you were right to be worried, and even that, maybe, you weren't worried enough.” 12 likes
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