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.