Book Review: Center of Gravity by Laura McNeil

Center of Gravity by Laura Mcneil

So I got an email the other day. I get a lot of those, but this one wanted to know if I’d read a book that had been sent out two me a few weeks before. Seemed publicity was compiling their reviews and they were wondering if I’d get to mine eventually. My TBR (to be read) pile is legendary, and if I’m being honest, even more unmanageable than my emails, so I hadn’t. In my defence, I didn’t know there was a deadline (although book publishing dates should give me the clue I’m apparently lacking.)

Even though I was already stuck into another novel, I promised I’d drop it momentarily—which I sometimes do—and do a fast read.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Laura McNeil’s Center of Gravity was it for me. I finished it that night. Not lying. I started reading at 8 pm and I couldn’t-wouldn’t-didn’t-want-to-stop turning the pages until the last one was done. At 1 am. I haven’t consumed a book that fast in a long time. You know how I know it was that good? I wasn’t even tempted to play Pet Rescue Saga while I was reading. I’m jaded. I know. It’s bad. I can play iphone games and read at the same time.

As far as creepy thrillers go, this one an A+ (not that I’m an expert*. In fact, I’m a ‘fraidy cat). I actually couldn’t fall asleep afterwards because my head was SPINNING.

Reeling, I tell you. Almost too true to life. I was shaking. And reliving scenes from the book. Like they were real.

It was THAT GOOD. I’m gushing.

Mitchell Carson, nutcase extraordinaire, scared the crap out of me. He makes the folks in Gone Girl look like poster people for good mental health.

Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is grand.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town —Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game? Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem. 

Of all the books I’ve read this summer, natch this year, and I’ve read a lot, this one is in the top 10. It’s been a long time since a novel has held my interest like Center of Gravity did. From the first page, from the first moment in fact, I was enthralled.

Utilizing multiple point of views for effect, McNeil lets her characters take turns telling their story. The tension spirals and we see the drama slowly unravel around them while we know things that they are unable to see. Being a fly-on-the-wall while a train wreck happens is disturbing and gratifying at the same time.

The author’s skill at using clean and sparse language to develop the story and her characters pays off. We empathise, sympathise, rail, and repent. We feel it all along with Ava and Jack, and yes, even Mitchell. We’re never really sure if there will be a happy ending, nor are we handed it on a silver platter. Without spoiling it for you, I can tell you that it’s touch and go up until the very last second.

If I can offer any critique it’s that certain areas of the story are underdeveloped: the book jacket mentions Ava’s relationship with her mother, but that’s largely unexplored; we lack a little bit of depth in Lucy’s motivations; and we sense a romantic connection between Graham and Ava that is left unresolved. But these are minor distractions that won’t prevent anyone from enjoying the novel overall.

Oh by the way, the only other thing that’s missing is my date with Graham. Because I’d really like to meet that guy. I’ll bet he’s hot.

What sucks is that I can’t read Center of Gravity again. Because, I know the ending.

Caveat: due to McNeil’s style of storytelling, this novel may be a little true-to-life for those who have themselves been victims of domestic abuse. 

This one ‘Goes to 11—hands down.

For fans of Girl on a Train, Alys, Always, or Before I Go to Sleep, You, or my recently reviewed The Truth and Other Lies

Unputdownable Factor: 11/10

Recommend Factor: 11/10

Will you read it?

*I should clarify. As I look through my book reviews I realize I read a lot of thrillers. I’m more of a scaremonger than I apparently admit to.

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