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Map of the Heart: A Novel Hardcover – August 22, 2017
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Praise for Map of the Heart: “A moving, sophisticated story of fathers and daughters, love and loss, secrets and lies, rebellion and redemption.” (Jane Green)
“Wiggs seamlessly melds historical drama with contemporary romance.” (Mary Kay Andrews)
“A sweeping story that spans generations and continents. No one knows a woman’s heart like Susan Wiggs.” (Mary Alice Monroe)
From the Back Cover
Love and family. War and secrets. Betrayal and redemption. #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns with a deeply emotional and atmospheric story that spans oceans and decades, from the present-day Delaware shore to the battlefields of World War II France.
Widowed by an unspeakable tragedy, Camille Adams has made her peace with the past and settled into the quiet safety of life with her teenage daughter, Julie, in a sleepy coastal town. Then the arrival of a mysterious package breaks open the door to her family’s secret past. In uncovering a hidden history, she has no idea that she’s embarking on an adventure that will utterly transform her.
Camille, Julie, and Camille’s father return to the French town of his youth, sparking unexpected memories—recollections that will lead them back to the dark days of World War II. And it is in the stunning Provençal countryside that they will uncover their family’s surprising history.
While Provence offers answers about the past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, she meets a former naval officer who stirs a passion deep within her—a feeling that she thought she’d never experience again.
“Susan Wiggs seamlessly melds historical drama with contemporary romance,” raves Mary Kay Andrews. Now this hugely popular author has created her biggest, most powerful story yet—a beautiful and heartfelt novel that celebrates the bonds of family and pays homage to the sacrifices of the past.
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Top customer reviews
20 August 2017
Wiggs, Susan. (2017). Map of the Heart. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
This exciting new work of fiction was so enjoyable I quickly ordered additional copies. Susan Wiggs chronicles individual and family journeys, leading to a love story bolstered by older love stories. It is also a tale of intrigue, unmasking unlikely ancestors from two generations past. Many key characters have a secret, and each avoids revealing the truth, sacrificing personal happiness for sorrow.
Map of the Heart is a complex account that explores many dimensions of discovery and revelation: Discovering old film and developing it meticulously to reveal photographs; discovering photographs and revealing the moments captured; discovering new relationships and mending old ones; and discovering one's ancestors, revealing the rich heritage they bequeathed.
Camille's story begins on a day filled with trauma and joy, a pivotal event in her life and her daughter Julie's. The detailed description of that day fills the first four chapters, establishing a platform for glimpses back into the past and a springboard for events to follow. Many threads are woven through the narrative, such as the interaction of light and dark to create visual images, including photographs. Note how often those terms are used. Another thread is the evolution of photography and imagery interpretation. Camille's passion and avocation (not hobby!) combines these threads, bringing to life the images captured on found film, often half a century or older. She loves "opening forgotten time capsules with a single act of light." (p.4)
This unique expertise brings together Camille and Finn, an historian who specializes in identifying deceased combatants and who teaches historical inquiry, methods of discovery and interpretation of findings from the past. There is great symmetry in Camille and Finn's different perspectives on congruent areas of interest and mastery.
The hard-cover edition is 345 pages, with endpapers featuring maps of the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia) and southern France. The author's blog provides an illustrated description of designing the book cover art, which is fun to follow. The narrative is divided into seven parts, by geographic location, internally by time period. Two time periods establish the settings for current and past events. The contemporary love story begins in Bethany Bay, Delaware, incorporating today's technologies. But the antecedent love story -- an origin story -- takes place in occupied Provence during World War II, 1941-1945, when the French resistance worked tirelessly against German and Italian forces, despite the hardship of stolen and destroyed resources.
Our history and heritage are our cultural DNA, intrinsic to our identity, so discovering our ancestors changes the way we think about ourselves. While such observations are clear in life, former educator Wiggs realistically chronicles the same growth and development of individuals and families in the story. Her meticulous research rewards readers with many areas of new knowledge.
It was my pleasure to attend the book launch at The Inn at Port Ludlow, Washington, where we imagined an evening in Provence. This delightful, intimate event was complete with dinner and scented by stalks of lavender, reflecting the cover art. Wiggs is approachable, warm, and totally charming. Her speaking and writing style are articulate and witty, and her descriptions are so clear I could picture myself in the settings.
As a reader, I grew to love the characters, and it doesn't get any better than that. Each individual's dialogue is distinctive and true, so there is no confusing characters from the contemporary Delaware shore with those from the southern France countryside during the war-torn 1940s. As hidden truths are exposed to light and reunions replace broken relationships, I visualized concentric hearts in their family trees. Camille's father Henry (Henri) provides an exquisite précis of their family's journey toward discovery and revelation that efficiently summarizes their story: "Life as it reveals itself is filled with riches." (p.337) Enjoy the riches!
Camille is a photographer that has still not come to terms with the death of her husband, Jace. The freak accident that took his life has affected her entire outlook on life. Prior to his death, she was adventurous and outgoing, but now lives a more cautious life, especially when it concerns her daughter, Julie. She once loved being behind the lens of a camera, and that has also changed since his death. She now lives her life in a darkroom rescuing and restoring old film. Her newest job is to develop film for a new client, a history professor named Malcolm Finnemore (Finn). She is in the process of restoring the film when she receives a call that Julie has been in an accident. Her immediate thought is to get to the ER, and in the process, she ruins the film she was going to develop.
Finn is a graduate of the Naval Academy, and is currently a history professor that is working in France, teaching at Aix-Marseille University. He also researches missing soldiers, hoping to bring closure to the families. This is something close to his own heart, as his father, Richard Arthur Finnemore, went missing during the Vietnam War. He has found a roll of film belonging to his father, and brings it to Camille to restore, hoping to find some clues about his father's last days. He is anxiously waiting to go over the results, only to find out the courier never picked up the finished pictures. Upset and frustrated, he sets out to track down Camille to find out what happened.
Henry, Camille's father, was born in Bellerive, France, and came to the United States when he was a young man. He never knew his mother, Lisette, and was raised by his father's sister. Needless to say, he did not have an easy childhood. Even though he divorced Camille's mother, he remained a constant in Camille's life. Every Friday night, they have dinner together. It is during one of these dinners that Henry tells Camille that he owns property in France, and wants to go there to check on things...he also asks Camille and Julie to come with him. After much hesitation, he finally gets her to agree, and they set off to France.
Lisette, introduced during the flashbacks, is the mother Henry never knew because she died during his birth. She is stuck in a loveless marriage, one she agreed to in order to protect her own parents. Lisette has sacrificed her own happiness for others, but through it all, she finds the courage to fight for what she believes in. She loves photography, and uses this to help during the war. Living through this horrible time, she eventually finds the one thing missing from her life...true love.
This is truly an amazing story that alternates between present day and France during World War II. Each character is struggling with something...and each of their stories are connected in one way or another. I love the storylines of each character, all needing to find closure or healing from something that happened to them. Camille is still grieving for Jace, even though it has been five years since his death. She eventually reveals what happened, and gives the reader a better understanding of why she is so reserved and cautious. Julie is hiding something, as well as Henry, and this adds an unexpected twist to the storyline. Henry's story is quite intriguing...especially when we learn about his mother during the flashbacks. I absolutely love Finn...he is a great character with a heart of gold. Susan Wiggs brilliantly weaves together these intertwined stories of the past and present...leading up to an ending that is completely fulfilling.
Map of the Heart...a perfect title for this story that outlines our connection through our family ties, our life experiences, and the effect it all has on our hearts. Overall, this is a story with amazing and realistic characters...all connected, but with their own story to tell. It is a story about family, love, loss, and healing. It is also a story about courage and second chances. I highly recommend this beautifully written story!
I would like to thank HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book. My views are my own and are in no way influenced by anyone else.
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