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The Center of Everything
 
by
Laura Moriarty
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The Center of Everything

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3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  5,503 ratings  ·  700 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

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Audio Cassette, 0 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by Recorded Books
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Emily
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K
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
Cissy
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
Suzanne
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...more
Claude Nougat
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...more
Diane
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
Andrea
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
Kelly
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...more
Linda Lipko
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...more
Stacy
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...more
Jennifer
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
Joe
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
Margie
May 01, 2013 Margie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
Joyce
Oct 17, 2007 Joyce rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate
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...more
Rachel
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
Lauren
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 we...more
Claudia
Feb 22, 2009 Claudia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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'...more
Tamara
I grew up in Kansas and much of what I remember are school bus rides and blazing hot days and the boredom and the overwhelming need to "belong" and the lack of control over basic life details. Whelp, that's kind of this book in a nutshell.

Depressing and disconcertingly realistic, but in a good way?

P.S. The 80s! Ocean Pacific and friendship pins! I would never have thought of these again if it weren't for this book.

Favorite Quotes

When she kisses me sometimes she says, “Smack!

But she's got a ba...more
cubbie
(Dog Eared Books)

this book, about growing up poor and smart in the midwest, so truly echoed my own experiences there that i couldn't help but love it. the plot is full of the surprising blows and crushing inevitabilities of real life, but there is humor and joy as well.

"Eileen says if you want something very much you can pray for it, and that gets God on your side, which helps a lot.
So I do. Please, God, let me be the one to go to Topeka. Please. I imagine God sitting in front of a computer with...more
Keith
Jan 10, 2008 Keith rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
I had to read The Center of Everything for my Fiction Writing class, and this probably would not have been a book I would want to read on my own. The author came to speak at Baker a few months ago, and that was pretty cool. She had some good things to say about her new book and just the writing process in general. For the novel itself, I think it's a really good read. Evelyn is the main character and narrative voice in the novel, and she is an incredibly smart person. The reader sees her as a gi...more
Tammra
I came across this book at a bookstore and it looked interesting so I bought it. I wasn't disappointed. I really liked it and so did my daughter Kayla. There are some characters that make bad choices and I was glad that there were consequences for those choices. Those situations were explored well and they became some real food for thought. Bad choices are not glamorized at all in this book. The story is about a young girl, Evelyn Bucknow, who lives in a little apartment in Kansas with her singl...more
Kristen
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...more
Steph Hundt
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
Punk
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...more
Mum
Great first novel. Everything midwestern rang true. Picky points based on the mid-west. The evolution fight came to Kansas later than President Reagan. My complaint with this novel is the same I had with "A Heart-breaking Work of Staggering Genius": it ended a chapter or two too soon.

If you want to understand how things get confused, and how people can survive, and survive with courage, this is a wonderful read.

Her voice was a bit mature for people her age, but I have read authors' writing fro...more
Renee
I'm rating this book much higher than the average review. I listened to this book on audio and absolutely loved the coming of age story of a young girl named Evelyn, living with her mother in a very poor, rural area of Kansas.
The book shows the scary tenuousness of poverty. There is a scene in the book when Evelyn is walking back from Social Security with her mother that I know will remain with me for a long time.
I also liked the development of Evelyn's mother Tina, she is neither a saint nor a...more
Lynda
This book was about a girl’s life from ages 10-18. I can’t say it isn’t an interesting concept and the book itself was fairly interesting, however I wasn’t at all satisfied with it. Nothing ever really happens to the girl, just to people around her. A story isn’t very interesting when the main character never actually does anything or grows emotionally in any way.

This was the first book I’ve ever read where I got to the final page and turned it, fully expecting at least one more chapter. It was...more
Kathy
Poor and smart can often be a very hard combo to live with and Evelyn Bucknow is very much both. Moriarty tells the story of Evelyn's junior and high school years in Evelyn's voice. The writing is excellent and I disagree with those who thinks Evelyn sounds too old. I think she is spot on. I felt that Evelyn and the other characters just spilled off the pages, one more real than the next. I started the book in my car on the way to meetings, but could not wait until I drove home the next day to f...more
Brenda
Evelyn is the daughter of a single mom, growing up in a tiny Kansas town during the 80s. This quiet but well-written novel follows her from fourth grade to high school graduation, as she makes and loses friends, falls in love, wrestles with faith, and breaks out of the cycle of poverty and dysfunction that she's mired in. In lesser hands, this plot could have been either too soapy or too political, but Moriarty makes it feel natural and authentic. She really knows how to interpret disturbing eve...more
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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 http://www.lauramoriarty.net/bio.htm)
More about Laura Moriarty...
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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 farms...you 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.” 12 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.” 10 likes
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