Save Big On Open-Box & Used Products: Buy "A Map of the World: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club)” from Amazon Open-Box & Used and save 71% off the $15.95 list price. Product is eligible for Amazon's 30-day returns policy and Prime or FREE Shipping. See all offers from Amazon Open-Box & Used.
- Sign up to be notified by email when the next Oprah's Book Club® pick is announced and available for pre-order.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
A Map of the World: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – December 3, 1999
|New from||Used from|
Books with Buzz
Discover the latest buzz-worthy books, from mysteries and romance to humor and nonfiction. Explore more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Special offers and product promotions
Oprah Book Club® Selection, December 1999: In A Map of the World, appearance overwhelms reality and communal hysteria threatens common sense. Howard and Alice Goodheart, the couple at the center of Jane Hamilton's 1994 novel, have labored mightily to create a pastoral paradise in a Wisconsin subdivision. Their 400-acre dairy farm is the last in Prairie Center, and they're working flat out to raise their two young girls in a traditionally bucolic manner. Yet paradoxically, they strike their neighbors as unacceptably modern, and have been treated as interlopers since the day of their arrival. Howard, in love with his vocation, chooses not to believe that they've been frozen out. But Alice, flinty and quick to judge, finds things harder. And her job as school nurse doesn't work wonders for her reputation either. Happily, there's one exception to this epidemic of unfriendliness: their closest neighbors. Theresa and Dan, who also have two young daughters, function as a virtual lifeline for the embattled family.
But in June 1990, whatever idyll the Goodhearts have worked for comes to a permanent end. On a beautiful morning--marred by her 5-year-old's tantrum but still recuperable--Alice looks forward to taking her children and Theresa's youngest for a swim. Distracted for several minutes, she has no idea that the 2-year-old is no longer in the house:
Lizzy had run to the pond and splashed in. It had felt good on her hot feet and she kept running and then she was pedaling and pedaling. She tried to grab hold of the water, pawing for the metal bar, a ladder rung, her mother, but there was nothing. She clutched and flailed.... She sank. The trout that Howard had stocked in the pond swam along through the dark water. They noticed Lizzy out of the corner of their eyes. They had inherited the knowledge of that look, and they knew it by heart.This is only the first of Alice's body blows. Next, she's questioned about one of her students, a memorably bad seed. On the verge of collapse, she cries out, "I hurt everybody!"--which will later be construed as a confession. Charged with sexual abuse and unable to come up with $100,000 in bail, she is forced to await trial in jail.
Narrated first by Alice, then Howard, and then Alice again, A Map of the World moves from intimate domesticity to courtroom drama with grace and subtlety. Hamilton wrote her book when accusations of abuse in schools and day care were peaking, yet this is not a modish work or an "issue novel" but a lasting creation of several complex lives. At one point, fed up with civil mechanisms, Alice tells her lawyer: "'Let Oprah be the judge.... Let Robbie and me, Mrs. Mackessy, Howard, Theresa, Dan, Mrs. Glevitch--let all of us come before Oprah. Let the studio audience decide. They're nice suburban woman, many of them, dressed for a lark. They have common sense and speak their minds.'" Apparently La Winfrey was listening, since she chose this beautifully observed novel for her book club. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Jane Hamilton has removed all doubts that she belongs among the major writers of our time." --San Francisco Chronicle"Stunning prose and unforgettable characters . . . an enthralling tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control." --Entertainment Weekly"It takes a writer of rare power and discipline to carry off an achievement like A Map of the World. Hamilton proves here that she is one of the best." --Newsweek"Ms. Hamilton has done a nimble job of showing us how precarious the illusion of safety and security really is." --The New York Times"Hamilton's chillingly accurate prose keeps her fine novel buoyant. She is superb in her observation of the natural world and in her examination of psychological nuance." --The Washington Post
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
A Map of the World tries to go for the same folksy midwestern setting as the Book of Ruth, and through its (seemingly endless) descriptions of the landscape, it definitely succeeds on that front. Unfortunately, it lacks the most important quality that Book of Ruth has: characters you actually care about. I hated Alice almost immediately, and eventually grew to hate Howard, as his 'Strong Stoic Unconventional Farmer Man' persona grew tedious with tiresome repetition of just how "calm" he always is and how much he loves their dairy farm. I can tell that we're supposed to find him somehow noble, and against Alice's psychosis he almost seems to be, but we eventually realize that he's just as irresponsible and self-absorbed as Alice herself. The book switches perspectives between Alice and Howard, which I liked at first because Alice's perspective was just so irritating to read, but as it turns out, Howard is even worse.
We don't get any reasons for why Howard and Alice do the things they do. There's absolutely no character development. Things just sort of happen to them, and they seem to adjust, all while barely showing any affection for one another, let alone any reasons to stay together other than their two bratty children, who you can't even blame for being bratty because of the way they're being raised: by two parents who can't even be bothered to feed or bathe them half the time.
---- ( spoilers beyond ) ----
So, someone as scatterbrained and neurotic as Alice should never be entrusted with children, sharp objects, or even herself. It's no surprise that Lizzy, their friend Theresa's young daughter, drowns in their pond while Alice was supposed to be supervising her, but unfortunately, it's the only interesting and believable thing that happens in the whole book. After that, we get long passages of introspection from Alice about just how terrible and guilty she feels. Her behavior becomes erratic, and finally she stops behaving at all -- she stays in bed for days, neglecting the house, her children, and her husband.
Somewhere in the middle of the book, Alice, a grade-school nurse, is accused of sexually abusing a student. This comes completely out of nowhere and doesn't fit at all with Alice's initial characterization, despite knowing by this point that she didn't like this particular little boy, and had once slapped him in a fit of temper. Alice is imprisoned, with bond set at $100,000. Howard, apparently gone completely to pieces with Alice no longer present, neglects the children and his farmwork. He eventually sells the farm in order to free Alice, but not before falling in love with Theresa. By this point, I wanted Alice to stay in jail and for Howard and Theresa to get together, as he certainly seemed to feel much more for Theresa than he ever had for Alice or their two children. Alas, this is not to be. Alice is released on bond and their little family moves to an apartment. Howard gets a regular job which pays well compared to what he was making as a dairy farmer, but both Howard and Alice are ever-scoffing and scornful of suburban life, believing themselves better than name-brand food and modern appliances. After a long section containing needless descriptions of Alice's trial, she is found innocent. The family moves to Chicago, and ... that's it. The book ends.
I don't understand how this book has gotten so many accolades. The lovely writing style that Jane Hamilton displayed in Book of Ruth is all but obliterated here; she's definitely a talented woman, but this book could have used some harsh editing so that we, the reader, don't have to suffer through nearly 400 pages of Alice's self-pity, Howard's apathy, paragraphs filled with descriptions of Wisconsin, and uninteresting trial dialogue. I found the book terribly boring and I finished it just to finish it. Save yourself the time and the $12 and find something else.
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.