Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Center of Everything, by Laura Moriarty (on CD)

Wow. There's a lot in this book to think about, which is a nice counterpoint because nothing much actually happens in the sense of plot. A 10-year-old girl grows up into an 18-year-old young adult. Think about those years in your life: full of potential, much sturm und drang, self-definition, drama, etc. For most people, most of the time, it's also a period of fallowness that is where you become You.

And so, Evelyn at age ten is relatively happy living with her young mother in a run-down apartment complex, being visited by her evangelical-Christian grandmother (but never her grandfather) regularly, and trying to make sense of the nearby and distant currents of life in Kansas in the 1980s. That year is a pivotal year: she comes to understand that family is complicated, that adults make horrifically bad judgments that turn their kids' lives upside down, that people are usually hypocritical about something in their lives, and that sometimes moms don't have all the right answers. Her mother gets pregnant, again, loses her job, becomes depressed, tries to go on welfare but her temper and pride cause problems there, and eventually gives birth to a boy with serious birth defects.

By the time Evelyn is 18, her best friends have ended up married to each other because Travis gets Deena pregnant when she is just 15. Evelyn has always assumed that she and Travis would be together, yet given the opportunity to do just that...she turns it down.

This is not a girl you always like; she does some pretty typically teenaged 'mean things' to people, but in the end she is what we all are at 18: complex and beautiful, not-yet-fully-formed, yet showing the outlines of potentiality. Gorgeous book.