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 Everythingas "warm" and "beguiling." USA Today compared the scrappy yet tender-hearted 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 BN.com 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.
|Product dimensions:||6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (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
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.
Reading Group Guide
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?