|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 390 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start date: Sometime in 2003-4
Finished date: Sometime in 2003-4
Where From: Used bookstore
Why Read: I saw the movie (I’m a big fan of Sigourney Weaver & her performance in this is one of her best ever) and I wanted to see where all the places these characters went originated from.
Summary: After Alice and Howard Goodwin move to a Midwestern farm with their two children, they struggle to keep afloat after the accidental death of a neighbour’s child and a prior incident comes to bear in light of it, creating potentially disastrous consequences for Alice as a number of jumbled untruths and lingering guilt surrounding these sudden lapses of judgment.
I completely agree with the People magazine review quoted on the first page of the book: “The pages are turned with trembling hands.” I felt myself drawn into the story as if it were a mystery page-turner, and like a scary movie where you clap a hand over your eyes but peek through the fingers because you can’t help wanting to know what happens next. Imagine this experience with a book that’s not a horror flick or a mystery thriller and you’ve got A Map of the World.
I felt for Alice as her nerves thin out from her oldest daughter throwing nasty tantrums, her youngest daughter having her heart, her husband, Howard, being devoted to his dream of farming, her need for support from friends she doesn’t have, and a mother-in-law who only appears to remind Alice how dissimilar and unrelated they are to one another. The only link she has to their new farming community is Theresa, a sweet-natured, calmer mom of two girls whose friendship with Alice is just beginning to grow when a tragic accident occurs to Theresa’s child under Alice’s watch. Not only is their friendship hanging in the balance but when an earlier incident involving Alice’s conduct as a school nurse is brought to bear that has been embellished considerably and leads to criminal charges. Since Howard cannot afford her bail, she is jailed and he is left to care for their two children until the trial decides the fate of her family, the last thing she has left to hang onto.
The novel is divided by two narrators, offering separately experienced and distinctly written perspectives: Alice, Howard, and then back to Alice again. Alice is by far the most interesting, tautly written perspective. Howard is a quiet, sympathetic character and you feel for how he deals with the overlapping situations head-on with very little restraint, all for the sake of their two children, but nothing can compare with Alice’s wrenching guilt and incredible strength in forming a stability she has always grappled to have and can finally attain by going through two of the worst experiences you can imagine at the same time.
The most difficult situations often make the most emotionally charged books and this is not entirely an exception, but more about the strength of overcoming the worst things a person is dealt. Think of it as more "this too shall pass" than "woe is me."
Rank: (A)- Highly recommend