What if everything you think is true and real about your life is a lie?
Ava’s life in the coastal South appears nearly perfect after her recent marriage to the powerful and handsome Mitchell Carson. She loves her husband and the family they have created. Even Mitchell’s young son from a previous marriage, Jack, with his superhero ambitions, can’t imagine life without Ava. Outwardly, Mitchell appears to be a caring husband and doting father, but as Ava soon discovers, there is a dark side to Mitchell Carson that she never imagined.
When Graham Thomas, a lawyer with a secret past, stumbles into Ava’s life, everything changes. Mitchell’s jealous streak emerges after an innocent encounter between Graham and Ava, and Mitchell soon convinces himself that Ava is unfaithful. When Mitchell starts divorce proceedings and a custody war, Jack is caught in the middle, which soon makes him question Ava’s pure intentions. As Ava searches for a way to save her family she begins to uncover her husband’s secret past and capacity for unhinged jealousy and rage.
MY BOOK REVIEW:
Could. Not. Put. It. Down.
Why? Here’s a taste of why – the opening three paragraphs of the prologue which reminded me of Ruth Ware’s opening of In a Dark, Dark Wood:
When your children are stolen, the pain swallows you whole. Logic fades, reason retreats. Desperation permeates the tiniest crevices of your mind. Nothing soothes the ache in your wounded soul.
Right in front of me, my sweet, charmed life fell to pieces. Everything destroyed; a hailstorm’s wrath on a field of wildflowers. All I’d known— gone. Foolish me, I’d believed in magic, clung tight to false promises. The lies, spoken from tender lips, haunt me now, follow me, and whisper into my ear like a scorned lover.
What’s left is emptiness.
Laura McNeill’s Center of Gravity (published by Thomas Nelson) is a gripping
family drama – wait. That’s not right. It’s a gripping domestic suspense thriller that gripped (I’m seeing how many times I can use the word ‘grip’ in a paragraph) my attention from start to finish.
Gripping paragraph now over. On with the book review.
The sentences are tightly written, often short, which gave immediacy to the story. Even the chapters are short, often, only few pages long, which fosters a sense of urgency for the reader. Center of Gravity by Lauren McNeill a page-turner.
As I read, I sensed elements of the unfolding story would reappear in later chapters with deeper meaning. With every page, I read with an increasing sense of foreboding, worried that a story like this could happen to someone I know and love. How strange to watch someone, in this case, Mitchell – Ava’s new husband – change before your eyes. Calls to question how much we really know those we love. What Mitchell does to Ava is not only unforgivable, but twisted, scary, and subversive.
McNeill’s narrative choice to tell the story in multiple points of view was spot on, giving the reader a sense of the whole world surrounding the circumstances. We hear from social worker Lucy, whose dependency on an inhaler brings tension to her scenes; and an attorney named Graham, whose last name, Thomas, made me wonder if it was “just a name” or a nod and playful tribute to the name of McNeill’s publisher. And of course, we hear from Ava, Mitchell, and the child that absolutely gripped (there’s that word again) my heart and soul: Jack.
I loved, loved, loved little Jack Carson, Ava’s adopted third-grade son. I happen to have a son exactly that age, so reading this story was a little bit too close to home for me – another reason I couldn’t put the book down. I felt so drawn to Jack; had to save him; wanted to scream, “You mutha f*cker!” at Mitchell a few times; and I read, desperately imploring Ava to get her @ss in gear to protect herself and those children.
Listen to a portion of this chapter (which happens to be the first chapter of the novel), on Audible, narrated by Lisa Larsen, and written from Jack’s point of view, where sweet Jack talks about his dream of becoming a superhero: Have a listen.
He’s such a sweet child. OMGosh. Jack’s desires to be a super hero are sustained throughout the novel – a brilliant device used by the writer that acknowledged MY feelings, as the reader, to rush into the story to save everyone. As if. I don’t even own a cape.
I’m out of breath thinking about this book. I feel like Lucy.
Join the discussion: Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill on Goodreads
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura McNeill moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to write full-time. Her novels, known for their endearingly flawed characters, illuminate the real life struggles that touch us all. Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. A native of Upstate New York, she now lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her two growing boysFollow @Julie_Valerie