Center of the World

Sheehan, Jacqueline. The Center of the World. New York: Kensington Books, 2016.

Reason read: Here’s a confession. I met the author at my father-in-law’s book signing event. I was embarrassed that I didn’t recognize Sheehan (or her work) despite her being  deemed a “best selling author” by the New York Times. In my defense, I would never buy her books for the library I manage. I highly doubt it will be on anyone’s syllabus soon.
My in-laws loaned me Center of the World and since it’s a signed copy I felt obligated to read it asap!

The concept for Center of the World is interesting. Kate, a budding scientist researching water quality in third world countries, finds herself in Guatemala during a civil war. After witnessing a horrible massacre Kate discovers there was only one other survivor, a Mayan toddler by the name of Sofia. Fearing for their lives as witnesses, Kate steals the child out of the country and raises her as her own. Twelve years go by and it looks as though Kate has gotten away with this illegal adoption, thanks to all the lies she has told over the years. However, her husband decides everyone, including Kate, needs to learn the truth. Add a government cover-up, a lost love interest, and a doting grandfather to round out the plot.

Small disappointment – I wanted to get to know Kate more. There were plenty of moments for further character development. For example, Kate leaves behind a lover in Guatemala. Supposedly Will is the true love who got away but there aren’t many opportunities for Kate to really demonstrate that loss. I would have liked to been a guest at her wedding to Martin. The hesitation before marrying the man who wasn’t her Guatemalan romance would have spoken volumes.

Book trivia: Sheehan is careful about dates. Each section of the novel is dated to set the reader in the appropriate place on Kate’s timeline. But, there is one detail that has me confused. In 1990 Kate meets Will, a “Peace Corp looking” kind of guy. After this initial meeting we jump into Will’s history (albeit without a benefit of a timeline, but we can assume it’s pre-Peace Corps; pre-Kate meet up). Here’s the rub – Will has a gift for learning languages and in talking to someone the language learning software Rosetta Stone is mentioned. Rosetta Stone, the learning tool, came about in 1992. Even if the man name-dropping Rosetta Stone was in the know way before 1992 Will shouldn’t have gotten the reference. Instead, he should have been confused by it.

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