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A Map of the World (Oprah's Book Club) by…

A Map of the World (Oprah's Book Club) (original 1994; edition 1999)

by Jane Hamilton

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3,752541,388 (3.51)1 / 56
Title:A Map of the World (Oprah's Book Club)
Authors:Jane Hamilton
Info:Anchor (1999), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton (1994)

  1. 21
    While I Was Gone by Sue Miller (Severn)
    Severn: While I was Gone shares similar thematic elements, and a similar narrative, to A Map of the World, and comes highly recommended.
  2. 00
    The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (TheFlamingoReads)
    TheFlamingoReads: A melancholy story of how people deal with the death of a child.

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Although Alice and Howard Goodwin and their two young daughters have lived in Racine, Wisconsin for several years, they are still considered to be relative outsiders by a majority of the townspeople. The family actually operates the last remaining dairy farm which is located on the outskirts of the town. While the farm has always been a dream of Howard's; finally realized by infusions of money given to him by his disgruntled mother, Alice considers herself to be constitutionally unsuited to be a farmer's wife. She works as a school nurse because she loves children, but is otherwise disorganized, skittish and emotionally volatile.

Alice is also extremely lonely, but she finds some solace in her friendship with her best friend Theresa. Theresa also has two little girls, and so both young mothers arrange alternating play dates while babysitting each other's children. During a particularly brutally hot day in June - in the midst of a terrible drought - Alice daydreams for just a few crucial moments while the four girls play together. In the space of a few short minutes, Alice's life as much as the lives of everyone around her, takes a tragic turn.

The resulting tragedy only serves to alienate the Goodwins even further from their neighbors, as the residents of Racine begin to close ranks against Alice and her family. When she is subsequently arrested for an unthinkable crime, Alice is devastated by the vicious accusations being made against her - but because Howard is unable to raise her bail - she must remain in jail. While Alice suffers tremendously though her time in jail, she still learns a great deal about human frailty and solidarity.

Meanwhile, Howard and her girls must undergo their own trial by fire. A Map of the World is the touching second novel written by Jane Hamilton. This is a beautifully written story that paints a stunning picture of a marriage placed under serious pressure due to calamitous circumstances. It also poignantly addresses the capricious turns of fate and the lives caught in the unyielding grip of regret.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story was well-written and full of sympathetic characters. I found myself totally immersed in the plot and I could completely understand how a person's entire life could be ruined by false accusations. As a matter of fact, reputations can be totally destroyed by the aftermath. I have actually read this book once before - approximately a decade ago - but as I can barely remember the plot, it's almost like I've never read the book at all. I would give this book a definite A+! ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Oct 6, 2016 |
A story about how quickly a family can fall apart after tragedy. I mourned for this fictional family and found enlightenment in their self-discovery and strength. ( )
  bpeters65 | Jul 16, 2016 |
Wow ... didn't expect to be as moved as I would be.
A reminder that anyone is just one or two tragic events away from losing everything.
The book moves from her perspective to his - back and forth, in turn - and the difference in their inner-minds is again eye-opening, and rings so true. ( )
  GeetuM | Jun 3, 2016 |
I liked this book because it included both the voices of Alice and Howard. It not only shows how she views the world, her memories and her personality. The complexity of their relationship, their marriage and how 2 insidents impact both their marriage, their lives and characters as a whole. This is what I noticed in my first read but I will definitely reread it. ( )
  Beatriz_V_F | Feb 27, 2016 |
A story of how a single mistake can affect the lives of everyone involved.
  PendleHillLibrary | Feb 16, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Hamiltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mons, AnnetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Steven Shahan with love and thanks. And for Elizabeth Weinstein also with love, and with thanks in each day all the way back to B-34.
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I used to think if you fell from grace it was more likely than not the result of one stupendous error, or else an unfortunate accident.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385720106, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:33 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Pen /Hemingway Award-winning novelist Jane Hamilton follows up her first success, The Book Of Ruth, with this spectacularly haunting drama about a rural American family and a disastrous event that forever changes their lives. Praised by reviewers for its intimate portrayal of the minds of its characters, a novel by the author of The Book of Ruth chronicles one family's decay through guilt and betrayal.… (more)

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