The Center of Everything

The Center of Everything

4.0 92
by Laura Moriarty, Julie Dretzin
     
 

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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.

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Overview

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 a troubled mother/daughter relationship, one in which the daughter is very often expected to play the role of the adult, the novel also gives readers a searing rendering of the claustrophobia of small town midwestern life, as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Evelyn must come to terms with the heartbreaking lesson of first love -- that not all loves are meant to be -- and determine who she is and who she wants to be. Stuck in the middle of Kansas, between best friends, and in the midst of her mother's love, Evelyn finds herself . . . in The Center of Everything.

About the Author:
Since earning her M.A. from the University of Kansas, Laura Moriarty won the George Bennet Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy. This is her first novel. She's at work on her next novel and lives in Portland, Maine.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Laura Moriarty's debut novel has the makings of something wearily familiar: the Midwestern mother-daughter coming-of-age story, featuring at least one episode in which Mom leaves home looking like a movie star but winds up collapsing in tears. Happily, Ms. Moriarty's artful, enveloping book is a lot more interesting than its genre initially suggests. It traces not only stormy adolescence, but also the essential stages of Evelyn's moral and intellectual evolution. — Janet Maslin
San Diego Union Tribune
Teriffic…. Moriarty has steady confidence…expertly wringing poignancy from…young lives…. A deeply satisfying novel.
Time Out New York
Moriarty creates empathetic, engaging characters and situations.
Chicago Tribune
Graceful and poignant.
Denver Post & Rocky Mountain Ne
Lively and endearing… complete tour of…conflicts between mother and daughter, as well as between the narrator's hopes and dreams.
Christina Schwartz
This impressive debut is a marvelously satisfying story . . . Moriarty eschews tough questions . . . competing loves and loyalties of adolescence.
A sweet, often comic series of tender moments spun from real-life battles.
USA Today
It's not easy to build a novel around a personality, but Moriarty does it well. — Anne Stephenson
Elle Magazine
Intelligent and charming debut novel.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Moriarty's enchanting novel passes too quickly.
Mark Costello
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. BOMC and Literary Guild main selection; author tour. (July 2) Forecast: First novels are usually a hard sell, but this one has already been chosen as a BOMC and Literary Guild main selection; backed by major ad promo, Moriarity's debut should see robust numbers. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Evelyn Bucknow's world has been quite small up till now. She and her mother live in Treeline Colonies, a collection of cramped apartments teetering on the edge of a highway in the middle of Kansas. Her grandmother visits every week, smelling of cigarettes and bearing gifts, including stories about God and Wichita, where she lives with her husband, the grandfather Evelyn has never met and the father her mother no longer speaks to. But she is getting older, and luckily she takes the reader along as she enters a widening world of new friends, cruel enemies, fresh pain, and Travis Rowley, "thief, breaker of locks, my own dark avenger and first true love." This world is a place of hard knocks and little self-pity, especially for the charming and prescient Evelyn. Moriarty builds an addictive and moving portrait of this poor, Midwestern girl in the Eighties, reminiscent of Dolores in Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, so well realized that one forgets it is fiction and so infectious that one never wants to put it down, even after turning to the last page. Essential for fiction collections.-Rachel Collins, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Evelyn Bucknow, 10 years old at the start of this novel, lives with her single mother. Struggling to make ends meet, Tina is a loving, if sometimes absentminded, parent. Won over by the seemingly kind attention of her married boss, she has an affair that leaves her pregnant and in dire financial straits when she is fired from her job. Evelyn narrates the story, and readers witness her growing maturity in the face of circumstances that are beyond her control. With dawning awareness and increasing resentment, she sees that her mother's poor choices are creating havoc in their lives. Evelyn is determined to avoid the same mistakes and use her intelligence to get out of the cycle of poverty that is so much a part of her youth. YAs will enjoy this engrossing novel and connect to the authentic and changing voice Moriarity gives Evelyn as she grows into adulthood. Her thoughts and feelings ring true to the angst and insecurity that are often associated with adolescence. Readers, along with the protagonist, feel sympathy and understanding for human failings.-Julie Dasso, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A pleasantly wry, spunky debut, set in the Reagan era, about a fatherless girl who uses her brains as the way out of her mother's hopeless welfare state. Ten-year-old Evelyn Bucknow, plain but brainy, has learned something about the inequities of the world from her less-than-privileged, conservative vantage point in Kerrville, Kansas. Her Vietnam vet grandfather has disowned Evelyn's mother, Tina, for her early sins and still considers her a "whore." Evelyn's grandmother, Eileen, is an Evangelical Reaganite who doesn't believe Tina will make it to heaven. And Evelyn's own fourth-grade classmates rub in her state of impecunious fatherlessness. Yet Evelyn is at the top of her class, winning the science prize over the town's rich girl because our heroine plays by the rules. And even when her first love and neighbor, handsome kleptomaniac Travis Rowley, falls ungratefully for Evelyn's beautiful new friend Deena, Evelyn resists the entrapments of failure that the welfare state seems to expect of her. Much as in another recent storyteller clashing with a dim-bulbed mom (Stephanie Rosenfeld's Massachusetts, California, Timbuktu, p. 638), Evelyn finds her wits sharpened by adversity and by her mother's ill planning-in this case, her getting pregnant by a kind but married boss, who skips town. Still, when it seems the new baby's retardation is the demonstration of God's just deserts, Evelyn finds strength-and Moriarty pumps literary vigor into her narrative-by reversing a reader's expectations. Evelyn's voice is a lone, steely cry against the chorus of small-town righteousness for which President Reagan's TV speeches form the background noise. And while Moriarty is no fancy prose stylist, shelistens carefully to the speech of her characters, and Evelyn and Tina's voices, especially, ring true without sounding dopey or sentimental. Among the plethora of first novels tracking preteen daughters of sorry single mothers, Moriarty's gutsy opener is hard not to like.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402557446
Publisher:
Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
07/23/2003
Edition description:
Unabridged

Meet 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. She is the author of The Center of Everything. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Maine
Date of Birth:
December 24, 1979
Place of Birth:
Honolulu, Hawaii
Education:
B.S.W., University of Kansas, 1993; M.A. in English, University of Kansas, 2000

Read an Excerpt

I look out my window, down at the yellow rectangles whizzing under us in the middle of the highway. There is nothing but fields of wheat on each side of the road, their feathery tops swirling in the heat. Last year, Ms. Fairchild read some of "My Antonia" to us. She said she wanted us to see Kansas and Nebraska the way it is in the book, beautiful, a breadbasket that feeds many people. She said Kansas is beautiful if you look at it the right way, and that we shouldn't believe anything other people try to say about it. "The abundance of it," she said, spreading her arms in her Wednesday dress, as if she were holding something large.

I like living in Kansas, not just because of the wheat, but because it's right in the center. If you look at a map of the world, the United States is usually right inthe middle, and Kansas is inthe middle of that. So right here where we are, maybe this very stretch of highway we are driving on, is the exact center of the whole world, what everything spirals out from.

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