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Jenny McPhee   The Center of Things  
Jenny McPhee  
Read an Interview with Jenny McPhee

Read an Excerpt from The Center of Things

 

Marie Brown, in her own estimation, is plain, plain, plain. Deaf in one ear, taller than average, unmarried. It's just all wrong. Combine that self — image with a career as a second — string tabloid journalist, consuming obsessions with both Nora Mars (a 40s — era film noir siren whose life hangs in a coma) — and one of Nora's ex — husbands, the hunky Rex Mars — an estranged relationship from her only sibling (brother Michael), an unfinished graduate paper in the philosophy of science, and a strange association with a man in the Science, Business and Industry Library of New York named Marco; it does seem unlikely that Jenny McPhee's The Center of Things will wrap up neatly.

And yet, amazingly, it does. But the journey is long — and transformative; and the answers turn out to lie less in what Marie — and her fellow characters — do than the things over which they have no control — or power. Sound vague? It is — but part of the reason for that is that the "center of things" lies not within ourselves (gasp! can it be?!) but in the external reality that governs our world, in fact, the very molecular basis of our existence. So how does McPhee tie that in? Well, using quantum mechanics, of course.

But do not fear! I'll admit, I was wary when I saw those two words lurking like intellectual time bombs in the book description. I don't want to give too much away, but I'll leave you by saying that if you never thought you'd understand concepts in physics and chemistry, by the end of The Center of Things, you will. And — astonishingly — you'll also understand how within those very concepts lies a reassurance about how life plays itself out that full of opposing forces — distant and proximate; cold and warm; inconceivable but as plain to see as the nose on your face.

Simply put, you've got to read it to believe it.

—Allison Heilborn

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  Photo credit: Pryde Brown Photographs

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