The Center of Everything: A Novel

The Center of Everything: A Novel

by Laura Moriarty


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The Center of Everything: A Novel by Laura Moriarty

Now in paperback, Laura Moriarty's breakthrough novel of growing up and growing wise.

Critics and readers everywhere stood up and took notice when Laura Moriarty's captivating debut novel hit the stores in June '03. Janet Maslin of the New York Times praised The Center of Everything as "warm" and "beguiling." USA Today compared the scrappy yet tenderhearted Evelyn Bucknow to Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. It garnered extensive national attention; from Entertainment Weekly to the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle, the press raved about the wisdom and poignancy of Moriarty's writing. The Book-of-the-Month Club snatched it up as a Main Selection, as did the Literary Guild. It was a USA Today Summer Reading Pick, a BookSense Top 10 Pick, and a book club feature title. And still, months after The Center of Everything's original publication date, reviews and features of the book continue to run nationwide.

With a reading group guide bound into the book and a stellar hardcover publication behind it, the paperback edition of The Center of Everything is poised to explode onto the scene again, and Evelyn Bucknow is ready to steal more hearts than ever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786888450
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 07/28/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 350,891
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About 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.



Date of Birth:

December 24, 1979

Place of Birth:

Honolulu, Hawaii


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.

Reading Group Guide

Our Book Club Recommendation
Set in a stifling small town in Kansas against the backdrop of the Reagan era, Laura Moriarty’s The Center of Everything is the story of one young woman’s struggle to make sense of the world around her. Evelyn Bucknow, the insightful narrator of this novel, excels in school and loves to find the right answers. But outside the classroom, in her mixed-up, chaotic world, the right answers are not always easy to find, and her moving search makes this the perfect choice for a book club.

Evelyn’s is a world populated by people without safety nets: Her proud single mother is out of work, all but estranged from her deeply religious family, and involved with a married man; Evelyn's defender and first love is Travis, the troubled, angry boy next door, abandoned by his father. But the shabby apartment complex she lives in is seemingly built on such circumstances, home to cast-off lovers, children, and cats. Although Evelyn seeks to draw clear boundaries -- between right and wrong, between what she has been given and what may never be -- her mother's pregnancy blurs the lines between parent and child. Evelyn is left not only to raise herself but to make sense of the sneers of her neighbors and her grandmother’s fanatically religious friends.

Book groups will notice that the novel's themes extend beyond Evelyn's story into the lives of other characters and the very atmosphere of the story. Her newborn brother is afflicted with physical and mental handicaps, and many readers will find common ground in Evelyn's mother’s small triumphs and heartbreaking challenges as she helps her infant son encounter the world. Travis, meanwhile, must make his own discoveries as he learns that the choices he makes can change his life permanently. Finally, the novel's setting in Reagan-era America provokes much broader discussions of history in the context of this small town -- from the activities of Oliver North to a battle between a biology teacher and fundamentalists who want to keep evolution out of the curriculum.

In The Center of Everything, Evelyn comes to understand the importance of perspective, in both science and in life, and the uncertainty that is part of existence. Moriarty's novel invites readers to examine their own choices and discuss how a change in point of view might, indeed, alter their world's center. Elise Vogel

Discussion Questions from the Publisher

1. Who is narrating? What historic or other signposts are available to the reader so that the story can be located in time and place? To whom or what does the title refer?

2. What do you think of Evelyn, Tina, and Eileen? What about Tina's father? What kind of people are they? What do they look like? What is Sam's role in the family and in the story? Share your impressions of other characters that stand out, and why.

3. When do you learn the narrator's name? What is going on in the story when this occurs? What, if any, is the significance of the scene where the narrator's name is revealed? When do you learn the narrator's name? What is going on in the story when this occurs? What, if any, is the significance of the scene where the narrator's name is revealed?

4. How does Moriarty use language to reflect the experiences and thoughts of the characters? Examine and discuss whether or not Evelyn's thoughts and spoken words are reflective of a child's point of view, and why. Share some examples that you find effective and/or moving.

5. How do Evelyn's feelings about her mother affect your feelings about Tina? Explore whether or not you are sympathetic or disgusted by Tina, and why. At the end of Chapter 11, why does Evelyn not wipe her mother's kiss off of her forehead? Share some examples of how Moriarty brings out the mother/daughter relationship and whether or not you can relate to it, and why.

6. Why do you believe Tina doesn't speak to her father? How do you respond when you learn that he told the family that a "little horse" is coming to dinner? Discuss this scene, and its implications. Consider how such a small phrase can reveal so much.

7. The car that doesn't shift is one of the many symbols Moriarty uses. What is its symbolism? Share some of the other symbols used throughout the story and how they are utilized.

8. Discuss the whole school milieu that Moriarty evokes in The Center of Everything. What are the roles of friendship pins and particular pieces of clothing in the lives of grade-school kids? What are your memories and experiences of these years? Share whether or not you think Moriarty successfully conveys these school experiences, and why.

9. Discuss the use of religion as a recurring theme throughout the book. As a storytelling device, what purpose does it serve? Why would a man as "religious" as Tina's father shun his daughter and be so unforgiving? How does Eileen live her beliefs? How does religion affect Evelyn? What happens at the church meeting with the healer? Why do people believe in healers? Share whether or not Tina comes to believe in some sort of religion, and why.

10. Why does Moriarty use the struggle between evolution and creationism in the story? What makes it particularly useful here? Why do people have this debate? Examine whether or not the characters' positions ring true, and why. What would you say to those who have different beliefs than yours?

11. Do you believe Deena's pregnancy is motivated by Travis' change of plans? Should Evelyn have shared this Deena? What position does Evelyn put herself in by doing this?

12. How does the car accident that kills Traci affect Evelyn? What motivates Evelyn to initially keep Traci's belongings hidden? Examine the significance and possible symbolism of Evelyn hanging onto Traci's clothes and locket into high school, and what they represent to Evelyn after Traci's death.

13. Discuss the underlining theme throughout the novel of being chosen or not being chosen.

14. Discuss Moriarty's use of foreshadowing throughout The Center of Everything. How does it influence your reading?

Customer Reviews

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The Center of Everything 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Probably my favorite book this year. Poignant without being whiney, poetic, funny, and very hard to put down. A must for any book club.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I live in a remote location and read constantly. This was by far the best book I have read in a long long time. I can not wait for her next book. I grew up in the same era as Evelyn and I think everyone either knew or was a character in the book. Very easy to relate to and even harder to put down!
Lacretia Miles More than 1 year ago
This book pulled me into the storyline from the start! Put this one on your TBR list...
ILgirl07 More than 1 year ago
I had read Laura Moriarty's other 2 books before I read this one and I feel like even though I went in reverse order, I saved the best for last. I am an avid reader and audio-book listener and this was by far one of the best books I have read in a long time. You cheer for Evelyn and her family the whole way, hoping that they will finally catch a break in life. I was so sad to see it end just when she was ready to start the next chapter of her life in college. Perhaps a sequel? A must-read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Center of Everything is a fresh and eloquently written coming-of-age story set in Kansas in the 1980s. The novel is written from the perspective of Evelyn Bucknow and spans a period of 8 years 'from when she is 10 years old to 18'. Moriarty does an excellent job of depicting Evelyn at each age, showing Evelyn's narration gradually mature. This novel is truly a must read. It will have you crying and laughing all the way through. The tense relationship between Evelyn and her mother is perfectly depicted. So is the relationship between Evelyn and her two friends, Deena and Travis. By the end of the novel, you feel as if you have known Evelyn your whole life. It as if you have literally been standing beside her as she deals with all of hte trials and tribulations that come with growing up. The Center of Everything was the best book I have read in the past year, and I am looking forward to more great books from Laura Moriarty!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I kept waiting for this book to get better, just like I waited for Evelyn's life to get better. Then just when I thought she'd reach college and things would look-up the book ended. The story was sad and I could feel Evelyn's heartache. But, the ending was so abrupt and disappointing I don't know if it's worth the effort of reading the book.
genbenGB More than 1 year ago
Great coming of age book. Excellantly written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I totally loved this book. One of the best things about it is how Evelyn, the main character's, voice changes as she ages from ten to seventeen. And Laura Moriarty really captures all the agony of adolescence. This book rings so true for me: I cannot wait to see what this author writes next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this beautifully written book. It captures the essence of an intelligent adolescent girl who has a sense of what life is all about without being handed any real tools to help her draw conclusions. Through the influence of teachers who believe in her, she begins to believe in herself. Moriarty's novel tells a story of family strife, love, discords and growth on the road to Evelyn Bucknow's maturity in a way that is believable and not syrupy. I found the story endearing and think it could be inspirational to teen girls faced with some of the same problems. I hated to have it end and found myself thinking of Evelyn for days after I finished the story.
J-DJD More than 1 year ago
The best coming of age book i've ever read. I LOVE THIS BOOOK
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am in the middle of the book. I just finished The Chaperone which was excellent. This book is well written but it seems more appropriate for a 12 year old who can identify with Evelyn. There's just so much heartache and despair. If the author was going for that she succeeded.
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This is a story that sticks with you.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book a few years ago and I absolutely loved it. Laura Moriarty is a fine writer and she captures you from the very first page.
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