The Center of Everything: A Novel

Set in Kerrville, Kansas, The Center of Everything is told by Evelyn Bucknow, an endearing character with a wholly refreshing way of looking at the world. Living with her single mother in a small apartment, Evelyn Bucknow is a young girl wincing her way through adolescence. With a voice that is as charming as it is recognizable, Evelyn immerses the reading in the dramas of an entire community. The people of Kerrville, stuck at once in the middle of nowhere but also at the center of everything, are the source from which Moriarty draws on universal dilemmas of love and belief to render a story that grows in emotional intensity until it lifts the reader to heights achieved only by the finest of fiction.

"A warm, beguiling book full of hard-won wisdom." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"The Center of Everything is as realistic and familiar as a summer day in Kansas--brave and gritty, strong voiced and spare." - O, The Oprah Magazine

"Impressive." - Los Angeles Times

"Filled with insight and rooted very firmly in love." - Glamour

“Deadpan and dead-on, thus funny moving portrait of unready adolescence reads like To Kill a Mockingbird updated for our time." - Mark Costello, author of The Big If

(Material provided by Hyperion Books)

Laura Moriarty

Laura Moriarty earned a degree in social work before returning for her M.A. in creative writing at the University of Kansas. She was the recipient of the George Bennett Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and is now an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Kansas. The author of The Center of Everything (2003), The Rest of Her Life (2007), While I'm Falling (2009), and The Chaperone (2012), she lives in Lawrence, Kansas, and is at work on her next novel.

Notes from the Selection Committee

The Center of Everything will provide a unique Common Book experience for first year students as they seek to discover, engage and belong to the University of Kansas. Moriarty’s credentials as an award-winning novelist are of course a source of pride for KU, but this selection has more to do with the experience it will provide for our new students than with a desire to celebrate the achievements of one of our faculty. We feel that the novel will be both engaging and approachable for first year students, especially as they read the novel during the summer before they arrive, but we also feel that it will challenge our students to consider the many ways in which their own experiences connect with those of the protagonist, who narrates her primary and secondary education as she approaches going off to college.  

Moriarty’s novel, primarily set in rural Kansas during the 1980s, touches on a number of cultural issues that clearly resonate in our state today, including economic inequality and educational opportunity. As only a compelling novel can do, The Center of Everything represents these issues through the subjective experience of a protagonist whose moral and intellectual development consists of honestly and critically examining and reflecting on them. It offers a wealth of opportunities for our first year students to engage with one another and with the world around them at the beginning of their college experience. The protagonist’s ultimate decision to continue her intellectual growth through higher education will clearly resonate with our students, who have just made the same commitment to learning by coming to KU.

In this third year of KU’s Common Book program we are proud to feature the work of one of our own, as Moriarty exemplifies the excellence that characterizes our faculty as a whole. Her presence on campus will allow us to approach our Common Book programming in different and creative ways that will welcome the newest members of our academic community to the energized learning environment of the state’s flagship university.