Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty

This is my second Reading at Random book, which is part of my quest to read books from my own library totally at random.

Now that I've read The Center of Everything, I've officially read two books by Laura Moriarty, and I can honestly say that I have a terrible love hate relationship with them. When I finished The Rest of Her Life, the first of Moriarty's books that I've read, I thought I didn't like it. I put it down thinking, "well, that was unsatisfying." Then, it marinated in my head for days and days and stuck with me in a way most books don't, and I'm afraid that The Center of Everything is going to do the exact same. Now, none of this is to say that these two books are bad books, rather they are two very good books with characters whose thoughts and feelings and heartbreaks became my own thus making the books weirdly personal for me and so that much harder to review.

I leave her books feeling like I know Laura Moriarty's characters, and I feel their pain, and I can absolutely relate to them in impossible ways. It seems, then, that Moriarty's books cut me so deep that it actually makes them hard for me to read and hard for me to say that I "like" even though its obvious that Moriarty is the best of writers, capable of engaging readers like me in ways beyond the ordinary. I never cried, but my heart broke over and over again for Evelyn, the main character of The Center of Everything, and for several other characters as well.

Evelyn is growing up in Kerrville, Kansas, which for all intensive purposes is, even on the map in her classroom, the center of everything. Evelyn has a childhood crush on the bad boy next door, loathes the cool girl in her class, and so badly wants to grow up and fulfill her potential so she won't turn out like her mom, whose string of bad decisions has alienated Evelyn. This is the story of Evelyn's life as told by Evelyn herself as she navigates life's rough waters into adulthood, and it's a very stormy sea. Nothing terribly extraordinary happens within these pages, but Evelyn's candid, believable voice pulls readers into her story and makes them feel for her and for the people around her as she rides out the frequent heartbreaks and occasional joys of growing up. Evelyn has a lot to learn about love, about compassion, and about the gray areas that lurk in our daily lives where there just doesn't seem to be any definite right or wrong to go by.

I don't say anything, but in my head, things have changed. I've drawn a line between us, the difference between her and me. It's like one of the black lines between the states on maps, lines between different countries on the globe. They don't really exist. You don't really see a long black line when you cross from the United States into Mexico, from Kansas to Missouri. But everyone knows where they are, and they are important, keeping one state separate from the other, so you can always tell which one you're in.

Moriarty's knack for portraying the blunt reality of life is unequaled. She allows us no safe place and rubs salt in all the raw wounds of any of us who have ever suffered broken hearts or embarassment or disappointment. She always shows and never just tells with her writing. Moriarty's characters are needy but proud and selfish, and when they desperately need each other the most, they can't seem to keep from missing each other's advances or hurting each other even more. In other words, within the pages of The Center of Everything they become absolutely real, living, breathing people that we come to care about. When they start to make peace with their lives, we breathe a small sigh of relief because if they can, maybe we can, too.

I definitely recommend this, if only for Moriarty's ability to capture the powerful story that lurks even in the most ordinary lives.

How about you? Have you ever read a book (or books) that touched a nerve with you? A book that you knew was good but was still hard for you to read?


  1. I really liked this book too. The cover is pretty too!

  2. I loved The Rest of Her Life, and agree with you that it's one that stays in your mind for days. I think I'd like this one too.

  3. I bought this at a library sale one time, thinking it sounded good, but honestly had no plans of getting around to it any time soon. You're making me rethink it's "position" in the line-up here. :) I have a feeling I might enjoy this one very much. Oh, but I'm jealous--I like that cover you have there much more than the cover on mine.

  4. Sounds like a talented author. I'm thinking I'll need to look into both of those books...

  5. Diane - Sure is. This book definitely has a lot going for it! :)

    Kathy - Both definitely have staying power, but I think I liked this one a touch a more, so I do hope you'll give it a try!

    Debi - Mine has the nice hardback cover from when it was brand new because it's, um, been sitting around on my shelf since, well, it was brand new. Haha! Definitely was a hidden gem lurking on my shelf. I wish *I'd* bumped it up in line!

    Debilyn - Definitely, definitely! Both are good, but I actually think I liked this one a little more, so it might be the place to start.

  6. I really loved reading this book...just bought it online from a1books...a great read indeed