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A Map Of The World (Large Print Edition) Hardcover – 1994
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A Map of the World centers around Alice, a woman that seems to march to a different drummer, and apparently does not seem to fit in with regular society. There is nothing really wrong with her, but for some reason, she lacks the social skills that helps others fit in. She is married to a wonderful husband Howard, who is as different from Alice as night is from day. I couldn't understand why anyone would be drawn to Alice, but Howard obviously loved her.
The story opens with Alice in a panic, taking care of her two young daughters and her friend Theresa's two girls, while Theresa is out. Alice obviously does not enjoy taking care of the kids. Motherhood does not suit her.
What happens next is what sets the tone of the book. The younger of Theresa's two girls, Lizzie, drowns outside in the pond where the girls often played. The reader and the characters in the book wonder, "Whose fault was it?" The town has already made up their mind about Alice, and it is not favorable. However, Theresa stands by her friend, despite the great loss she and her husband Dan have just gone through.
This is only the beginning of Alice's troubles. Rumors start to circulate about Alice and her work as a school nurse. What follows is a series of events that threatens to tear Alice's family apart.
From reactions I received from friends, and reading the reviews at Amazon, I've noticed that this is probably one of the more difficult books to get through that Oprah chose for her book club. I'm the only person I know that actually enjoyed this book. What kept me reading was Jane Hamilton's beautiful writing style. That alone was worth reading this book. The story is depressing and the main character is not a likeable person at all. Despite this, I do recommend the book, but with a word of caution, that one needs to be patient in order to finish this book.
The writing is of good-enough quality, but long-winded and indulgently self-reflective. The characters are solid, but seem like passing strangers to whom one has no connection. The situation is very sad, but Alice's paralysis by her own self-pity grates on your nerves. I found myself angry that I had to read to the end just to find out what happens. Finally, the epilogue seems tacked on, as though the author felt it unnecessary to discuss the most important part of Alice's emotional journey.