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Without a Map: A Memoir Hardcover – April 1, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807072737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807072738
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #990,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It was 1965 when Hall was expelled from her New Hampshire high school, shunned by all her friends, made to leave her mother's home, and kept hidden from sight in her father's house—all because she was a sexually naïve 16-year-old, pregnant by a college boy who wasn't all that interested in her anyway. And in this memoir, chapters of which have been published in magazines, Hall narrates this bittersweet tale of loss. After childbirth her baby was put up for adoption so fast, she never had even a glimpse of him. She finished high school at a nearby boarding school, then soon wandered to Europe and eventually found herself just walking, alone, from country to country. Somewhere in the Middle East she scraped bottom and repatriated herself. She accumulated another lover and had two children, before her first son, the one she was forced to abandon, made contact. Making peace with him was deeply healing. This painful memoir builds to a quiet resolution, as Hall comes to grips with her own aging, the complexities of forgiveness and the continuity of life. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In 1965, Hall, called Meredy, becomes pregnant at 16. Four-and-a-half months later, maternal instincts kick in. She pauses before doing a somersault in gym class, and her secret is exposed. Expelled from school, she is shunned by her small New Hampshire community and turned away by her mother. Sent to live with her father and his chilly new wife, she hides upstairs while they have dinner parties, waiting out her pregnancy like a prison term. This rousing memoir tells the story of how Meredy was forced to give her baby up for adoption (was, in fact, drugged during labor to prevent any contact at all) and pushed into a vagabond existence. She lives on a boat, wanders penniless around the Middle East, and eventually settles in Maine. Divorced and raising two young children, she gets a phone call: her son is found. Written in spare, unsentimental prose, Without a Map is stunning; Meredy's reunion with her grown son (who was raised in poverty with an abusive father) is the highlight. Book groups, take note. Emily Cook
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

At the age of forty-four, Meredith Hall graduated from Bowdoin College. She wrote her first essay, "Killing Chickens," in 2002. Two years later, she won the $50,000 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation, which gave her the financial freedom to devote time to Without a Map, her first book. Her other honors include a Pushcart Prize and notable essay recognition in Best American Essays; she was also a finalist for the Rona Jaffe Award. Hall's work has appeared in the New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Southern Review, Five Points, Prairie Schooner, and several anthologies. She teaches writing at the University of New Hampshire and lives in Maine.

Customer Reviews

This book is very compelling.
The author skips back and forth so much between time periods and people that the story lacks flow.
Meredith Hall's writing is exquisite.
Evelyn Krieger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In "Without a Map" (245 pages), the author Meredith Hall retells the consequences she faced upon becoming an unwed mom at age 16, growing up in a conservative surrounding in the mid-60s. Immediately outcast by both her parents, she is literally set on a path of life that she never intended or prepared for, "without a map".

The author vividly paints how, after giving up the baby for adoption immediately at birth, she aches for some, any, sympathy and support from her parents. She never gets it, and eventually she leaves her family at age 18 to make her own life. One of the better chapters (which do not follow chronologically, incidentally) is when she decide to walk around in Europe and the Middle East, "without a map", for what must be a period of months, if not a year, all by herself and without hardly any money, sleeping wherever she can find a spot.

At some point in her 20s or 30s, Hall introduces her mom to a guy she is dating. During what seems to be a pleasant meal at the restaurant, at some point her mom pulls the guy closer and says (in front of Hall!): "Thomas, I feel compelled to warn you away from my daughter. You don't know what you are getting into." Her mother then continues eating and chatting as if nothing has happened. Can you imagine that? Up until the very end of her monther's life, the author hopes for some sign of ackowledgement or forgiveness from her mom.

Lest you think that this book is just one big hole of self-pity and sorrow, there are also great uplifing moments, none better than when the author describes her reunion, 21 years later, with the child she gave up for adoption at birth. In all, I found this book absolutely compelling from start to finish.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Morton on April 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Finally I understand what the word "evocative" means. Hall's prose is like liquid, and she creates pictures and feelings without ever being wordy or sentimental. I thought I would like this book because it was about a woman in New Hampshire, and I thought I would be able to relate to that. Instead, I loved this book because even though Meredith Hall's experiences are nothing like mine, her humanity is exactly like mine, or any other human's. The book's nonlinear structure is unusually well-executed and the story surges forward no matter what direction time is flowing in from chapter to chapter. The book weaves together mortality, relationships, loneliness, nature, and love without romanticizing the people, places, and feelings that Hall uses to explore her life, and the idea of life at all.

I can't wait to read her next book.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By C. Ray on May 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...this is a book that anyone who has wondered, "How could someone give up their baby?" should read. And if you have ever asked, "What kind of person gives up their baby?" this is a must read, because the answer is... someone just like any of us.

Things happen beyond our control - sometimes they just get out of hand and sometimes they are just unfamiliar and unexpected. Through everything that Meredith Hall experienced since she was 16 and her world turned upside down, she has remained steadfast in hope and Love. She was shunned, she was made to feel dirty, shame, and guilt - no just by strangers or school friends or the father of her child, but her parents.

This book is a testament to the love between a child and mother. As the years passed since Memorial Day 1966, Meredith never forgets her baby - the baby everyone was ashamed of, that everyone shunned her because of, the baby that was her only companion and solace until he was born. For 21 years she counts his birthdays and thinks of him growing up... each of them without the other. This book is also a record of the attitude that society had (and still has) about the mothers and children that form the base of the adoption industry. How Dr. Quinn talks to Meredith and his careless placement of her baby in an abusive home speaks volumes.

When birth-mother, adoptive mother, and their child meet we see three people with the same heart - a heart filled with love and forgiveness and hope. Meredith Hall has written a story - her story - that not only will open eyes but will open minds and hearts as well. All our parents stories are the beginning of our stories.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. Kirilova on April 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I cry when I read this book. I don't mean to, but somehow it happens, and more than once, because the writing is so tender and vulnerable and immensely beautiful. It is powerful, but in a very quiet, unassuming way, so it comes as a surprise when I find myself so moved by Meredith Hall's story. It is a story of drifting, of existing outside of one's self, of struggling to fill an all-encompassing emptiness. Grief, love, and compassion are woven together in this memoir in a pattern that is very human in its intricacy. The narrative structure is nonlinear, but Hall's memories of different times and places still flow together with an unusual elegance. The texture of her prose is light, delicate, and somehow incredibly soothing despite the fact that it recounts pain, loss and abandonment. This is a stunningly beautiful book that I will definitely read again.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By K. G Havemann on May 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Meredith Hall's intriguing memoir "Without a Map" is a singularly poignant and interesting book from a literary point of view and both heart-wrenching and affirming from an emotional point. At first, the non-linear aspect of her story touched on the annoying but then it all came together; in many ways, the absence of chronology added to its uniqueness among memoirs. It was as if in the telling, she suddenly remembered something that made her go back and then move forward again.

As a story of society's reaction to young girls "who got in trouble", it brought back the horrible lack of compassion and empathy so rampant in the fifties and early sixties, when I was also growing up. Boys were understood to have no sexual control and girls were held solely responsible for keeping themselves "pure". Combining this with the lack of full sexual education, a phenomenon that has come back to reality under Bush's "Abstinence only" sex ed, could lead only to what it did in Meredith's life. Pregnant girls were shunned as tramps and sent away to have their babies in hiding and to give them up without ever seeing them. The professionals believed these young girls would easily forget their pasts and go on with their lives. No one except the young girls themselves ever imagined that they would remember their babies in stark detail every single day of their lives. Adoption itself was usually held in privacy between the obstetrician and whomever he deemed worthy of having a baby, often to disastrous consequences, as in this instance.

We don't often hear from these young women again except in what are portrayed as happily-ever-after reunion shows on TV so Meredith's memoir fills an extreme gap in our knowledge.
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