Title: A Map of the World
Author: Jane Hamilton
Date Finished: Oct 31, 2008 #63
Published: 1995 Pages: 390
"When I was very young I used to sit before my map of the world imagining myself in an ideal country, alone and at peace. Now, if I could make the world over, I said ... to Howard--if I could make an impossible, new world, Howard, this is who you would see: You'd see Emma, and Claire and you'd see yourself, and me, all together, dancing on the porch with the shades down, outcasts making a perfect circle" (382).
I can't remember when I picked this book up, but it was one of the first library booksales I attended--so it's been at least five or six years since it first graced my shelf. I'm not sure why I let it sit for so long (oh--probably because I can't stop acquiring new books!), but I'm definitely glad to mark this one off the ole TBR list. Do you buy/get books and let them sit for years upon years??
A Map of the World is the story of the Goodwin family, Howard, Alice and their two small daughters Emma and Claire, who has recently moved to a farm in rural Wisconsin. When one of Alice's friend's daughters drowns in the farm pond under Alice's care, she struggles with her guilt and fault of the little girl's drowning. Her life slowly begins to fall apart and a few months later she is accused of sexually abusing a small boy while working as the school nurse. After Alice is arrested and sent to jail, the Goodwin family must either bond together in their unthinkably tough times or crack under the pressure of false accusations and damaged reputations.
While this sounds like a soap-opera type book, it is actually a very quiet novel. Most of these major events happen in the first quarter of the book and the rest of the book is about how the characters are dealing with their situations. In all senses, this is an absolutely character-driven novel. It does have a little bit of courtroom stuff near the end, but even then these parts of the novel focus more on the characters than what is being argued by lawyers. So, in a way this feels like a Shreve or Picoult book, but with more emotion and more development.
I really don't have any complaints about this book other than the fact that it took me three weeks to read, which feels like a lifetime. There is very little dialogue in the book, and that made for very slow reading, especially because life has been so hectic lately. But despite the length of time it took me to read this, it was a compelling read because of the intimacy shown by taking a deep look into the lives and thoughts of the characters. The book begins with Alice's narrative and after her arrest switches to Howard's point of view, finally returning to Alice's thoughts again for the remainder of the novel. I love when books present different points of view, and showing how both Alice and Howard are coming to terms with the events gives a more complete representation.
Definitely not a cliffhanger book, but if you like character-driven books, I would recommend this one. I also have Hamilton's The Book of Ruth sitting on the shelf (also purchased years ago...maybe even at the same sale?). Have you read these two books? What were your thoughts?