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The Center of Everything

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  261 ratings  ·  79 reviews
In this compelling family drama set against the dangerous beauty of the Yellowstone, Polly is still trying to get her life back on track after a recent accident, not always trusting reality.

For Polly, the town of Livingston, Montana, is a land charmed by natural beauty and a close network of family extending back generations. But a recent head injury has scattered her perc
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 12th 2021 by Counterpoint
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Will Byrnes
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Good mothers were rarities, the center of everything.
Sometimes the beauty of the written word can make you stop, pause, sigh deeply, and appreciate the moment. I am fortunate to have been able to read and report on many top tier works of fiction. It remains a singular joy to come across written passages that bring me near to tears with their sheer power and beauty. Here is the beginning of the novel, the beginning of what brought on my overwrought response:
When Polly was a child, and thou
I find the concept of memory fascinating: what one person remembers from an incident versus what another person remembers, especially regarding childhood. Hence I was drawn to Jamie Harrison’s “The Center of Everything” which explores the fragmented mind of the main character, Polly.

Polly is recovering from a major bike accident which left a dent in her head and major brain fog. As she regains her health, her mind seems scattered. She remembers odd things from her past; yet can’t remember where
Kasa Cotugno
The Center of Everything is the kind of multi-generational saga that I no longer read, but I am glad I gave this one a chance. Polly's family history is filled with the usual mix of secrets and love and love and secrets and imbroglios and connections, and references so fleeting you might just miss them in passing but which come back to haunt later on.

The framework of the piece begins with preparations for a July 4 week celebration coinciding with the disappearance of one of the town's better lo
Addie BookCrazyBlogger
May 22, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-s
A multigenerational family saga that is mired in tragedy and dysfunction. The novel is broken up into two perspectives: one 4th of July weekend in July 2002, when a young friend of the family, Ariel has gone missing during a family reunion and in 1968, when the family is dealing with the mental illness of another family friend. In 1968, the dysfunctional family features Polly, her parents, her great grandfather and her step-grandmother dealing with the mental illness of their family friend Rita, ...more
Julie Christine
Jamie Harrison's novel The Center of Everything is a sharp and shattering mystery wrapped in the familiar, worn blanket of family and shared history.

At the start of summer in 2002, Polly, 42-year-old mother of young Sam and toddler Helen, is recovering from a minor head injury after being hit while cycling. She experiences periods of muzziness, falling into painless migraines that deliver strange images, which could be childhood memories or possibly collections of dreams. An editor and accompli
Apr 08, 2020 rated it liked it
The center of everything is Polly Schuster, on the cusp of middle age, married with two children, an editor with a scar on her scalp and a messed-up memory a result of a biking accident. When we first meet her, she is getting together a big celebration for her ancient aunt’s 90th birthday as memories flood back from her Montana childhood.

The reader is tossed into the middle of the story with a number of characters – her historian mother Jane, her husband Ned, her kids Helen and Sam and various r
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Polly started pretending she was fine. Was it the past she was remembering or was it her newly injured brain just confused? Her husband, Ned, said she had “moments of deja you.” Her grandmother had told her there were three kinds of dreams; wishes or desires, loss or being lost, and fear. All she really wanted to do was to spend time with the people who were gone or she thought were gone and to look for her friend who had vanished in the river. Her “sanity was tenuous and her life was b
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Polly Schuster lives in Montana near the Yellowstone River. It is a few days before an annual 4th of July fest that she is hosting for family and friends. With her husband Ned, they run a bar/restaurant that is usually the epicenter of such activities. Polly also has two young children to care for as she goes about her activities.

But this year is exceptionally challenging for her on two different levels. There is a rafting tragedy on the Yellowstone that people question about how it occurred. A
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 stars for the most novel and engaging novel I've read in a long time. Jamie Harrison has brought together a family of extended characters full of quirks and tenderness The central character, Polly, had a rich imaginative mind before her brain injury. Flashbacks to her childhood years suggest that her pre-TBI brain was itself a landscape like no other, leading some family to discount certain memories. I loved this richly atmospheric story as the action shifts between earlier events and the comm ...more
janne Boswell
Apr 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
I found this book confusing and difficult to follow. I struggled to get through it. I as well as Polly, couldn't quite get the storyline. I thought the book was disjointed and did not flow. I was lost from the beginning and then characters kept getting added? As a reader, there is nothing worse than being thrown into the middle of the story, and then attempting to unravel and figure out who these people are and oh wait-this is suppose to be a 'compelling family drama?! " I did not find this to b ...more
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
Very confusing to follow - too many plot lines, the multigenerational bumps around too much. I wish I could have got into this one and followed the book, but it was very difficult to follow the plot lines through the story and the jumping around. I really did not understand it and felt I missed too much to be able to recover. Unfortunately for me it would be a pass. I believe it really could have been much better if the author focused on fewer plot lines and did not jump around through time line ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Center of Everything is a fictional story about family and the secrets it can hold. Polly, the primary character, suffers from a head injury that causes her to flash into a daydreaming state which can be both dangerous and insightful. This is the sixth novel by Jamie Harrison who lives in Montana where this novel takes place.

Polly gets sideswiped by a car while riding her bike and lands squarely on her head. At first there are no symptoms but she quickly loses her orientation and her memory.
Christine Lowe
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book. This is an immersive look into the complexities of a multigenerational family. The characters are so well developed that I lost myself in their lives. This is a story I thought about when I had to put the book down.

In the first eleven pages, the reader discovers that Polly is hit by a car while riding her bike and suffers a brain injury. She sometimes freeze and temporarily disappears into a memory. Polly is learning to manage the spells with the help of friends and famil
This book wasn't for me. I know how much effort goes into writing a book and I wanted to like this one, but I just couldn't. I read about half and gave up. The premise of a woman who hits her head in a bike fall and then has memory problems sounded intriguing. What it was is confusing. The storyline jumps around, I couldn't track the characters, it jumps from past to current day. Maybe the jumping around is meant to mimic her brain, her thoughts after the brain injury - if so, I'd hate to be in ...more
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
A beautifully told multi-generational family saga that switches back and forth between summer 2002 and summer 1968. (And thank goodness for the family tree at the front of the book!)

In 2002, Polly is recovering from a head injury that has compromised her short-term memory and at times leaves her “lost” and staring into space. But her determination to remember brings back the summer she was 8 years old in dream-like specificity and detail. That was the year she and her parents joined her magical
Beth M.
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a beautifully written, slow burning, character-driven piece of literary fiction to kick off the upcoming new year, then I urge you to consider THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING.

Harrison’s latest novel tells the story of wife and mother, Polly, who lives amongst the beauty of nature in small town Montana with her family. After being hit by a car and thrown from her bicycle, Polly suffers from a traumatic brain injury. She struggles to attend to everyday tasks as she could before and
I looked so forward to reading this book, that the higher it rose in my TBR pile, the more I smiled. Despite my initial enthusiasm and continuing hope, this book and I never connected. I found the writing flat and almost distant though I wish I could describe that better! Observational reporting perhaps, with no feeling towards what was happening.

For a book that wonders how much of what we think we remember is what really happened at the time, considering our changed perspectives of time and ag
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, 2021
I won a copy of "The Center Of Everything" on Goodreads First Reads. It was difficult at times to keep the characters and the timelines straight, but the book was so compelling that I had to continue. It is well worth the read. In fact, I think this is one of those rare books that needs to be reread. ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: usa-multi-gen
I thought I would like this because of the setting in Montana and plot summary. Unfortunately, I just could not get into this novel. The writing was fine, but I could not make myself care enough about this family to rate it any higher.
Deedi Brown (DeediReads)
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: partner-requests
All my reviews live at


The Center of Everything is a beautiful family saga with an intriguing mystery (or two) thrown in. I enjoyed it and I’m glad I read it.

For you if: You like books with family trees printed in the front.


First, thank you to Counterpoint Press for sending me a finished copy of this book. The cover is stunning and I really enjoyed it.

The Center of Everything is part family saga, part literary mystery that takes place in
Jan 26, 2021 added it
Shelves: unfinished
Listened to audiobook.

Struggled to 76% but then called it.
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Read my review HERE. ...more
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Center of Everything is a wonderful novel. As a long time fan of Jamie Harrison’s Jules Clement series, this read to me as simply another story in that world, an alternate universe tale of Alice, Peter, and Jules where the names have changed, but the core of those characters is alive and present as ever. The themes that made those mysteries so rich continue to be explored and expanded upon in this book. Reflections on life, death, love, loss, murder, family, community, art, food, and the mem ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Center of Everything by Jamie Harrison is a book filled with conflicting thoughts and actions by mother, editor, and cook, Polly Schuster. Polly had suffered a head injury after being hit while riding her bicycle. Oh, I was so angry at the neurologist appointed by the insurance company for the condescending way he treated her memory loss and inability to complete mundane tasks. (He was clearly paid for by the old man who hit Polly)! Polly is an intelligent woman, but since the accident, she ...more
Hand me the splint, please

What’s at the center of everything in this novel? Boredom! My arm will be sore from writing on the Complaint Board. Hand me the splint now please.

The story is about a woman, Polly, who hits her head and then has memory problems. We don’t hear about the hitting her head part (which I’m thinking could have been interesting); we just hear about her childhood and her adult self. The story goes back and forth between the two time periods. Memories abound. The Now plot revolv
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will be reviewing this novel for Booklist! A very complex book - fans of literary fiction will love this, suspense/thriller fans maybe not so much. The language is beautiful. An easy book to get lost in.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-vine, 2020
Please see my review on under C. Wong. Thank you.
This is a complicated book, and the writing style doesn’t help matters. I found it very confusing in the first portion, trying to figure out who were all these characters. People are introduced as if you know who they are right away.

The world is of Polly. She had a concussion months ago, but is still recovering from her injury, sometimes she drifts off, sees things, Polly is consumed by memories of her past. Many of these memories her mother Jane claim are not something Polly would remember but
Linda Bond
Apr 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Livingston is one of those relatively small but beautiful towns found in the mountains of the still half-wild state of Montana. It's just about sixty miles north of Yellowstone Park, where folks from all over the
country go to get a view of nature at its best. Here Polly Schuster and her husband run a restaurant. They have a lovely family, with a young boy and girl, and Polly enjoys her other job as a freelance editor. They have everything going for them until tragedy strikes in the form of a
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was ok
This book just did not work for me at all. The story is in part about memory and the connection that childhood memories have to our present day lives. The protagonist, Polly is suffering from a head injury that has impaired her memory and reading the book I began to feel too that I had a memory issue as I could just not make sense of the happenings. But perhaps that was the point? The book is told in 2 narratives, partly in 2002 with Polly as a married mother of two, and partly in 1968 when Poll ...more
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Jamie Harrison is the author of six novels: The Center of Everything (January 2021, Counterpoint), The Widow Nash (2017), and the four Jules Clement/Blue Deer mysteries, slated to be reissued soon by Counterpoint Press: The Edge of the Crazies, Going Local, An Unfortunate Prairie Occurrence, and Blue Deer Thaw. She was awarded the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Reading the ...more

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