Review: Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

Center of Gravity Book Cover Center of Gravity
Laura McNeill

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.

Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill is not for the faint of heart. Although the blurb is pretty clear that this isn’t a happy, sunshine-and-birds story, I wasn’t prepared for how emotional this book made me. I can read/watch pretty much anything – gore, thrillers, blood everywhere – but this story of domestic abuse was hard to stomach.

McNeill’s writing style was fast-paced, and almost jerky at times. Statacco thoughts. Short sentences. Frenetic. This suited the story, which was high in tension from the get go. The narrative switched between several characters – Ava, the loving mother; Jack, her wary young stepson; Mitchell, her husband, and Graham, Ava’s lawyer/friend. I particularly liked the inclusion of Jack’s perspective; even though he was only eight, he knew something wasn’t right with his dad, but was still desperate to please him.

Some reviews I’ve read have painted Ava as weak, for not being ‘strong’ enough in the early part of the book. I disagreed. Strength is subjective; it takes strength to stay in a difficult situation and it takes strength to leave. I never saw her as a weak character. Desperate to please, maybe. Scared to disappoint anyone, probably. Willing to do anything to protect her kids, definitely. I don’t see how that makes her weak.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who has encountered domestic abuse – it’s pretty heavy reading. I had to put it down several times and walk away because I was so angry and upset for Ava. I suppose that made for good reading, but it was also very draining. Although I liked the characters, and the story was definitely engaging, it was hard to get through in some parts.

That said, it’s a well-written, poignant story about a topic that too often goes unspoken. Perhaps people should read Center of Gravity for the warnings it gives, or the message it’s sending. Really, I think it will be up to each individual to determine whether this book would be a good idea for them – if you think you can make it through, it’s definitely worth a read.


I received a copy of Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

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