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The Center of the World

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  132 reviews
In New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Sheehan’s evocative and emotionally compelling novel, a mother and her adopted daughter each embark on a journey of self-discovery in the wake of a stunning revelation.

How do you keep a secret so huge that it could devastate everyone you care about? For Kate Malloy, the answer is simple: one lie at a time. That’s how she has
Paperback, 308 pages
Published December 29th 2015 by Kensington
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  918 ratings  ·  132 reviews

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Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book has it all: heroes and villains, death squads and family loyalties, massacres and soccer, heartbreak and redemption. THE CENTER OF THE WORLD is both an emotionally intense mother-daughter story complicated by secrets and danger and a sizzling love story, set against the background of civil war in Guatemala and U.S. dirty tricks. Highly recommended.
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, fiction
After an extraordinary sequence of events, Sofia has just learned that she isn't who she thought she was. Though Kate, her adopted mother, told Sofia she was given up for adoption by her dying (biological) mother in Mexico when Sofia was two years old, the truth is much more complicated and heartbreaking. As Sofia attempts to come to terms with this life-changing information, Kate must also finally acknowledge the painful and traumatic truth of her own past.

The book is divided into four parts, a
Patricia Williams
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a really lovely story. So glad I read it. I've read books by this author before and they have all been good. This one was really good as well. It's a story that pertains to today's environment although it took place a few years back. A scientist is doing water research in Guatemala. While there she makes many friends and begins to teach English to some of the locals. The country is in turmoil and there is a giant invasion in the city she is residing in where everyone is killed but one l ...more
Once again Jacqueline Sheehan has pulled me into a story and not let go. This time, it centered on Guatemala, a land whose music and folk art long ago grabbed my heart, while the history has broken it. I'm not even sure where to begin in a review, except to say that I stayed home yesterday just to keep reading this book. It's a book about family, about belonging, about hearing the language of your heart and soul. It's about knowing your roots, and following your instincts. It's got good, and evi ...more
Katarina Kovcin
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am grateful to Kensington Books for providing me this book via NetGalley, in an exchange for my honest review.

Kate had never imagined that her present could be so violently discontinued, when a tragic event occurred and her husband, Martin, passed away. All of her secrets started to come out and reveal themselves to her daughter, Sofia. Kate has been keeping these secrets from Sofia for many years, but now the entire family must face them and deal with the consequences.

The book is divided in
Vanessa Mozayani
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
My final read for 2018. Part 4 was simply page turning.
Kelsi H
Nov 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Please check out all of my reviews at!

When Kate’s husband dies suddenly, her world is shaken in more ways than one. She discovers that he has left a posthumous letter to her daughter Sofia, explaining the truth about her adoption. Sofia was always told that she was legally adopted from an orphanage in Mexico before moving to New England with Kate. However, Kate has been keeping a dangerous secret from everyone about the real origins of her daughter. Rescued fro
Jan Pelosi
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Jan by: Some book/reading website
Shelves: chick-lit, families
Oh, man . . . . this book was all over the place for me. It started out very very slow, so slow that I almost put it down after a bit. But I choose to keep going because there really wasn't anything left in my reading pile. I still have very mixed feelings not so much about what Martin did, but how he did it. Could have been a better way. It wasn't believeable to me at all that he could be so shocked and unpset about finding out, then go about life as always, then allowing the shitstorm to unfol ...more
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a difficult book for me to read because we have two grandchildren who were adopted; one who is part Chinese and the other who is part Japanese. They are somewhat open adoptions, and both children have known from an early age that they were adopted. We have made a great effort to let these children know that they were very much wanted and were "prayed" into our family. They know without a shadow of a doubt that they are loved every bit as much as their other brother who was not adopted. ...more
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting read, and definitely a page turner for me. This story has many interests for me, the adoption, something that I have always liked reading about and Guatemala, as I grew up there.
Kate Malloy goes to Guatemala to study the water quality of Lake Atitlan, In 1990 on an academic grant, while living in Santiago Atitlan, she befriends a woman from a nearby village and is teaching her English in exchange for local tips on how to do things. The woman has two year old twins, So
Melissa Lee-Tammeus
Nov 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
Okay, I have mixed reviews about this book. At first I was annoyed that the author just jumped right into the plot - I felt like I got thrown in the deep end and had no idea how to swim. We start out with a girl who suddenly finds out she is not who her mother told her she was - we find this out because her stepfather, after his death, has his lawyer give her a letter. Wait. What? All this happens in the first four or so pages. Taking a deep breathe, I think, okay, let's see if I can paddle to t ...more
Dec 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
What if you discovered that everything you know about yourself is a lie? Jacqueline Sheehan’s riveting new novel, The Center of the World, explores complex questions of family and identity, and the difficult choices made during times of war.
Sophia Malloy is devastated when a letter from her recently deceased stepfather upends her world. Sophia discovers that she is a war orphan from a Mayan village in Guatemala. Now she must grapple with her thorny history and its implications for who she reall
Sharon Huether
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was so happy to receive this free book from Goodreads first reads.
The book is full of adventure, harrowing sacrifices, civil war, love and hope. The characters are very believable. I highly recommend this book.
I've read another book by this same author. It too was a very good book.
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The publisher provided me with the opportunity to read this in exchange for providing feedback. (via NetGalley)

Really good, fast paced read. I started it last night and had to force myself to stop. The author writes really well and sweeps you into the story.
Meghan Jacobi
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
The storyline was highly far fetched.
Purple Iris
The story was an interesting one, but the writing was too cheesy for my taste. Also, the main character was frequently TSTL.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was not my favorite, but definitely got better toward the end. I enjoyed the history of the South American countries involved. None of the characters were particularly compelling.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The story was good and the background set in Guatemala was intriguing. It gave further insight into the reasons behind the caravans of those seeking asylum.
Mark Walker
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Having just completed my own memoir, much of which takes place in Guatemala and having all three of our children born there, Jacqueline Sheehan’s novel was a must read. I also wrote about the devastating impact of the violence in the 1990s and its root causes of this sad period in Guatemalan history, which this author introduces in beautiful prose. The story explores the mother-daughter bond which crosses cultures against the backdrop of one of the most violent times of Guatemala’s history,
Janka H.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
The gruesome past, the only-on-name satisfactive present time. The heroic acts of men and women to bring healing, hope and forgiveness into situations what have been colored by blood, lies and pain.

This one is a beauty of a book. Part of this is because the authoress truly has a way with words. She understands the deeper meaning, this is almost a poetry - without the form of a poem, yet the deep heart is very present. She has the gift to touch the common situations/people and to turn it into th
Karen Lowe
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I totally loved this book. The characters pulled me in, they were so finely wrought and real. The situation was both unfamiliar and close by. I learned about the history of Guatemala and its people in a way that was poignant and touching. What a powerful read!
This book was described as riveting - and I agree. I was late for an appointment because I just had to read one more chapter, okay, maybe two, when suddenly an hour had slipped by. Then there was the night I was so tired but managed to fin
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What a stirring story. Sofia has been Kate Malloy's world since the day she adopted her. Kate has created an environment for Sofia to grow up safely and be offered many opportunities that she would never have had in Guatemala. She never lied about Sofia being adopted but she did lie over the years and that is the rub for this beautiful story. Part 1 is fairly slow but give it a chance because after that, the plot takes off. As an adoptive mother, I was angry that Kate would lie and create some f ...more
Jane Owen
Mar 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to have won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Even though I’m under no obligation to review it I usually do try to give my opinions of the books I read. Not only does it help the author but it gives readers a little insight into the story.
A wonderful Captivating, lovely read. The author knows how to reel her readers in from the get go. I wasn’t able to put this book down. This is a book about so many things. Without giving any spoilers it is about Family, finding your roots, ad
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
It was ok. As an adoptive mom, Sofia's realization that her family history was a lie did not ring true. A teenager shutting herself off from the world - yes. But how she deals with the truth toward the end of the novel - no. The ending felt too "unicorns and rainbows," as we like to say in the adoption world. I thought the book was going to be more about Sofia and her mother but that part of the story was only a small portion of the novel. Most of the novel took place in the past and was about S ...more
Nancy Kilgore
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you haven’t read Jacqueline Sheehan, you should begin today! Starting out as a mother-daughter impasse, this novel quickly becomes a thrilling adventure story about a peace corps worker in Guatemala who gets caught up in the scary politics of the 80s while rescuing a child from a horrible fate.
This book is a wonderful read: the plot is unique – it kept me turning pages way past my bedtime, – the characters are very real, and the psychological insight is excellent. Some of the reflective passa
Lauren Wallace
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Part of her had been waiting, just waiting to be revealed." (247)

If you are looking a book that you don't know what could possibly happen next this is the book for you. It was a page turner which is filled with drama and I had to know what is happening next. Even though it had a lot of drama it still was believable and easy to follow.

This book was a medium read, as I read it in about 3 days.

I would recommend it to any drama lover!
Malinda Bollinger
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book was chosen by one of my book clubs. I probably would have never found this jewel of a read without it being recommended. The writing drew me into the story as if I were a character. The bitterness and horror of war comes through the characters with an insight of a world unknown to most of us! I will be looking at other books by this author....
Sharon Clousing
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book. Well written and informative.

This book gives hope that diplomacy can leverage power and move countries towards interdependence and away from only power and dependence. As North Korea ascends, the entire world will have to be convinced and convincing of the superior interactions of diplomacy over war.
Joanne Munro
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read in a long time. Fifteen year old Sophia finds all the information about her adoption were fabricated by her mother, Kate. The story of "why" is the backdrop for this intriguing tale about war torn Guatemala in the early nineties...An inside look at the life of the Mayan people...Loved it! ...more
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Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a fiction writer and essayist. She is also a practicing psychologist. She is a New Englander through and through, but spent twenty years living in the western states of Oregon, California, and New Mexico doing a variety of things, including house painting, freelance photography, newspaper writing, clerking in a health food store, and directing a traveling troupe of hi ...more

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