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Book review: 'The Center of the World' has a surprising story but familiar message

Posted August 25
Updated August 26

"The Center of the World" is by Jacqueline Sheehan. (Deseret Photo)

"THE CENTER OF THE WORLD," by Jacqueline Sheehan, Kensington, $14.99, 336 pages (f)

It doesn’t matter where someone is from, the center of the world will always be family.

That’s the lesson of New York Times best-selling author Jacqueline Sheehan’s latest novel “The Center of the World.” Her novel follows the story of college soccer star Sofia, whose world is flipped upside down when she discovers that she’s not an adopted child from Mexico, but a saved baby from wartime in Guatemala. As Sofia questions her reality, her mother, Kate, reflects on the back story of how Sofia came into her life.

The story is divided into four parts. The first deals mostly with Sofia’s discovery and her ensuing arguments with her mother. The second, third and fourth parts deal with Kate’s backstory in Guatemala, which includes a lovely and heartwarming love story, and the family’s eventual return to Guatemala to find Sofia’s parents.

The first part of the book is a little slow, but it’s only about 40 pages so it’s not too long of a drag. It also sets for a story about Sofia coming to terms with the new information, but then shifts to her mother’s point of view and takes readers through Kate’s struggle of finding Sofia and adopting her.

Readers will likely engage with the rest of the story. Kate’s journey to Guatemala is unique and familiar because it includes a somewhat traditional love story between Kate and a man named Will. It also includes a couple of twists and plenty of dramatic irony.

And while the beginning of the book drags on, the ending suffers from almost being too short. Readers will beg for more of the story once Sofia and Kate arrive in Guatemala.

But Sheehan does well to set up the ending with a well-constructed story. The ending payoff fits the story’s narrative and will make readers happy to have followed Kate and Sofia along their journey. Overall, the book’s middle — Kate’s journey in Guatemala, specifically — is the strongest part of the story and will surely hook readers.

“The Center of the World” features mild language and a short description of a sexual situation. It also includes a few violent scenes of warfare and abuse, discussions on death, weapon use and theft.

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

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