Book Reviews of A Map of the World

A Map of the World
A Map of the World
Author: Jane Hamilton
ISBN-13: 9780385473118
ISBN-10: 0385473117
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 392
Rating:
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 161

3.5 stars, based on 161 ratings
Publisher: Anchor Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

95 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed A Map of the World on + 58 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
I thought this is a good, but very different book. I was engrossed in the story almost immediately, although I couldn't put my finger on why. The book starts in the perspective of Alice, an unhappy and persevering wife of a dairy farmer. Alice is an odd character; she sees things in a way that no one else does. Sometimes I couldn't decide whether she was just eccentric with a wide-ranging and vivid imagination, or whether she was just mentally ill. The events of the story could send anyone into a downward spiral of questioning all that you hold true in life. The perspective changes for the middle of the book to that of Alice's husband, Howard. The contrast is very interesting and gives much insight into Alice's character as well as the background of their lives. Then, for the last part the perspective is Alice's again. All in all, there valuabel themes of perseverance, love despite adversity, forgiveness, and respecting others. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys character-based stories. This is not a fast-moving story though, so if you enjoy action and lots of twists and turns in plot, this probably isn't the book for you.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
Beautifully written, but I have to agree with another reviewer on this list that I basically couldn't stand the main character here. She seemed to me to be self-absorbed and just plain weird. Her husband seemed nasty. Her friend Theresa was almost just a sketch of a character. Anyway, blah....I don't mind a depressing story, but give me something to grab onto to already......
reviewed A Map of the World on + 58 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
This is one of those books that stays with you for a long time after you read it. Have you ever wondered what a fine line we walk between our happy everyday lives and sudden total disaster? One lapse in attentiveness sets into motion a series of events that will forever change the main character's (Alice) life and those around her. Having endured bouts of depression during my life, I could totally relate to the Alice's feelings--the author puts you inside her head with so much ease that you find yourself thinking the same things right along with Alice. A fantastic, easy to read book. The only negative comment I have was that the ending left me unfulfilled--it was too abrupt.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I did not really enjoy this book. A tragedy turns the characters absolutely bitter. It was a depressing read.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 42 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Heart wrenching. One of the best books that I've ever read.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
The beginning of this book was especially painful to read, and I believe anyone with a child will find it so. But, the book touched so great a nerve within me that it was a most memorable read. You just can't help but sympathize with the main character, and constantly imagine how her (ex) best friend, and all family members felt. It really is a case of a tragedy occuring by accident. Preventable? Of course. But, that's the case with all true accidents. You will not forget the powerful emotions in this book.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 13 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This is a wonderful book -- depressing, but so beautifully written and thought provoking. It's about a child dying and the repercussions of her death in this small community.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 80 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
It started off very interesting but then it really fell flat, and the characters are not very likeable.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 24 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
So sad, what would happen if your neighbor's child died under your watch...
reviewed A Map of the World on + 334 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Jane Hamilton is a great writer, and this book is one of her best. An intelligent, sensitive read, with characters that really ring true.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
One of the top 10 books for 1994
Engrossing story that could happen to anyone.
Shows how one event can change everything.
Great reviews from New York Times, Newsweek,Washington Post Publishers Weekly.
Author also wrote The Book of Ruth
reviewed A Map of the World on + 9 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book and have reread it several times. The vivid depiction of the stressful worklife of the school nurse was chilling.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 21 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Jane Hamilton has knack for getting you hooked from the first few pages...good read.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 112 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Written by one of my favorite authors. A very hard book to read (subject matter), yet hard to put down, in the end, I was left with a sence the I could survive anything, and was so happy and thankful to have not put it down, and finished reading such a very strong book by a gifted writer.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 200 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Unforgettably, beat by beat, the author maps the best and worst of the human heart and all the mysterious, uncharted country in between. The Map of the World can be described as a page turner.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Intriguing read....a page turner.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 36 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
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
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Helpful Score: 1
I just couldn't get into this one...
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Helpful Score: 1
Softcover Oprah's Book Club selection, national bestseller, novel..
reviewed A Map of the World on + 27 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is a chilling and superb novel. Unforgettable characters.
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Helpful Score: 1
First line: "I used to think that 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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Helpful Score: 1
Hamilton writes with a stunning grace, spinning an intensely real world with exquisitely human, multi-faceted characters that draw you in. I enjoyed this book immensely and am eager to read more by this author.
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depressing!
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This is a powerful book. Well written, dealing with difficult issues. I enjoyed it, but it made me cry at times.
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Enjoyable Oprah book club read. A big non-spoiler warning, however: the book deals with the accidental death of a young child, making it potentially a tough read for parents of young children or for parents who have lost a child.
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Synopsis
A farmer's wife who is also a school nurse has possibly been responsible for the drowning death of a child--and then, in a separate incident, she is accused of molesting a child in her care. These horrifying events and their increasingly tense and thriller-like repercussions raise questions about life in the heartland of America.
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This beautifully written book assembles a gripping cast of sinners, sufferers, and opportunists, then gives them the settings and self-perceptions to hang or redeem themselves. A great read.
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Best book I've read all year!
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A peek inside the thoughts and lives of "ordinary" people. Amazing how life can spin out of control and all that you thought helped create your cocoon of safety can be peeled away so easily.
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A very well-written book that is centered around a tragedy. I had to read this book slowly and absorb what the characters were feeling. This one is certainly literature.
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A compelling read. Was hard to put down once the 'action' really started.
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It was really hard for me to really like any of the characters in the book. Well written, but a real downer.
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While the book took me a while to get through, I did enjoy the story.
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fine novel with great characters
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This is an excellent book about forgiveness. The message in this novel had moved me so much that I wrote a letter to the author. I was quite surpirsed when Ms. Hamilton wrote me a personal letter back!
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A bit disturbing, I could'nt get the images out of my mind, a good book, but "heavy"
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A great book. Heartwrenching !!!
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I got about half way through the story before I had to quit because I was so frustrated by the main character. It still sits on my shelf with me hoping that one day I can get through it.
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I agree with a few of the other reviewers. This book was beautifully written and kept me hooked but overall it was pretty depressing and I just had a hard time connecting with Alice the main character. I wanted to understand her and feel for her but I was never able to connect with her as a character and even throughout the unjustices that were done to her I still saw her as emotionally removed from her family and self-absorbed. Even after some of the issues were resolved I never really felt that Alice grew or learned from it and was content to stay "different" as she and other characters remarked she had been her whole life. At the end I still felt sad for her husband and children. The book definitely kept me intersted but also somewhat sad that Alice and her family would never get to a better place then they had ever been - before or after the tragedy.
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I liked this book but the ending just sorta ENDED. Little disappointed in that but otherwise a good read.
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This book was wonderful. I could not put it down and therefore read the entire book in a day. Beautiful imagry, compelling story. I definately recommend it.
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Did not love this book as much as the reviewers did on Barnes & Noble etc. It was a sad story with characters who did not appeal that much to me. However, it was touted as one of the top books of its year, so you should give it a chance.
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I came very close to putting this one down, but something told me not to. The story is told by Alice's point of view, then Howards, then Alice's. Alice was an interesting character, but a bit annoying. Several times I wanted to reach out and slap her upside the head. She and her husband were the two most unhappiest people who couldn't realize it. She despised living on the farm and everything about it even though she never spoke too much about it and Howard, sensing this despised Alice. I personally think Alice was a bit off her rocker to begin with, but when her neighbors daughter drowns in her pond while under her care she gets a bit crazier. A few weeks after this incident occurs she is arrested on charges of sexual abuse. Alice is held in jail and Howard is left to care for their two daughters, the house, and the farm until Alice's trial. Howard is incapable of doing all this on his own so he turns to his wife's best friend (who is also the mother of the little girl who drowned in the pond) for help.

I can't say too much more without giving it all away. But it is one I would recommend.
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Heart wrenching, and better than the film as is usually the case. Good read, looking to more work by the same author.
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I was given the soundtrack before the book. Smooth jazz perfect for a candlelit dinner. The first chapter, however, was too dang depressing and I refused to move forward.
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very intense and comlex read
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A very different kind of book, an adult novel, that shows the reader both the best and the worst in other people, and gives a very realistic picture of small town life. The story draws you in, and illustrates very well how we can never take anything for granted.
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Truly a page turner. "...unforgetable characters..an enthralling tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control".
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This book surprised me. I didn't really read the back cover when i read it and was caught off guard with the subject matter. The death of a child and child molestation charges in the same book make it an intense read.
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Somber material, but a great book. Well written. I liked the different points of view between husband and wife characters. Sorry I won't repost it soon, because I've passed it on to other family first!
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I really did not enjoy this book, I found parts of it really unbelievable as well as difficult to read. I am seldom sorry that I read a book but this one fills me with regret that I read it to the end. Books plotted in tragedy should offer some kind of hope, this was just full of despair.
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One of my all time favorites. The opening paragraph mesmerized me.
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This novel is a must read. Though there is much sadness in the plot, the story is compelling and well written. Have the hankie nearby, though.
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A surprisingly good book. Sweet without treacle, hurt without pain, I could identify and understand these characters.
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I thought the author did a great job with character development. I could feel for the main character and how she had suffer and struggled
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A very strong book, one that kept me turning the pages and deeply moved me. I think it is this author's best work.
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Rich, expansive, emotionally intense. Highly recommended!
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Have to be honest, I was surprised by the story line. Don't know if I liked the story or not. I felt bad for the two girls, you could tell they were crying for attention from their parents. The mom definitely had issues. This is not one I'll read again.
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Good book. Excellent prose. I love how it's told in the first-person from two different people in three sections.
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From Publishers Weekly
Booksellers should send up three cheers of greeting for this haunting second novel by the author of The Book of Ruth , a beautifully developed and written story reminiscent of the work of Sue Miller and Jane Smiley. A piercing picture of domestic relationships under the pressure of calamitous circumstances, it poignantly addresses the capricious turns of fate and the unyielding grip of regret. Alice and Howard Goodwin and their two young daughters live on the last remaining dairy farm on the outskirts of Racine, Wisc. The farm is Howard's dream, realized with infusions of money from his disapproving mother; but Alice, who is disorganized, skittery and emotionally volatile, is constitutionally unsuited to be a farmer's wife. Her solace is her best friend Theresa, who also has two little girls for whom they alternate days of babysitting. One hot, dry June morning, in the middle of a soul-parching drought, Alice daydreams for a few, crucial minutes while the four girls play. She has rediscovered the map of the world that she made after her own mother died when she was eight; it was an attempt to imagine a place where she would always feel safe and secure. In that short time, one of Theresa's daughters drowns in the Goodwins' pond. As outsiders from the city, the Goodwins have never been accepted in their small community, which now closes forces against them. Still grieving and filled with remorse, Alice, a school nurse, is accused by an opportunistic mother of sexually molesting her son. She is arrested, and since Howard cannot raise bail, she remains in jail, where she suffers but also learns a great deal about human frailty and solidarity. Meanwhile, Howard and the girls undergo their own crucible of fire. Among Hamilton's gifts is a perfect ear for the interchanges of domestic life. The voices of Alice and Howard, who narrate the tale, have an elegiac, yet compelling tone as they look back on the events that swept them into a horrifying nightmare. In counterpoint to the shocks that transform their existence, the drudgery of the daily routine of farm life has rarely been conveyed with such fidelity. Fittingly, however, the death of their hopes as a family coincides with Howard's realization that the farmer's way of life is disappearing as well. The last third of the book, detailing Alice's incarceration among mainly black inmates, is astonishingly perceptive and credible, opening new dimensions in the narrative. One wants to read this powerful novel at one sitting, mesmerized by a story that has universal implications.
reviewed A Map of the World on + 14 more book reviews
Super book! A real page turner and tear jerker!
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This is a hard one to review because the writing is great, the author is very talented, but the story is so depressing and I hated the main character. I just wanted to slap her! I was so put off that I almost couldn't finish the book. In the genre of depressing stories about families in chaos, I preferred We Were the Mulvaneys or The House of Sand and Fog.
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Although the premise of the book seemed promissing, ultimately it just didn't do it for me. This book was long and drawn out - I found myself wanting it to be over and finishing it just for the sake of finishing it. I hate that. I did like the way it was split into chapters by the main characters and their points of view (one of the few redeeming qualities), but it left a lot of unanswered questions in the end. I would not seek out another title by this author based on this book.
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I found this book to be a slow read. I could have read the last few chapters only as that is what I felt was the only good part.
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Very, very good. Heart-wrenching. Sad. Shocking.
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One of my favorite authors. Great book, very sad.
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Good story and excellent writing.
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One of the 10 Best Books of 1994 according to Entertainment Weekly, People, Miami Herald and Publishers Weekly.
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Heard too much about the story line before I could start it, lost my enthusiasm
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"like a lot of books signled out for praise, A Map of the World can be described as a page-turner. But in this case, the pages are turned with trembling hands."
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Gave some insight on what happens to people when the unexpected, unpleasant events of life happen to them, not the other guy.
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Really good book. I cried through the first half. A two year old girl drowns in the neighbors pond when the neighbor was babysitting. Then the neighbor, who is a school nurse, gets accused of child molestation by a student. I really liked this book but found the ending a little blah and confusing. There are hints thoughout the book that the nurse and her husband get divorced at the end but when you get to the end it is unclear what happended. It is definately worth reading though.
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"Stunning prose and unforgettable characters... an enthralling tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control.At"-Entertainment Weekly
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The accidental drowning of a neighbor's child in their farm pond sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy a young family.
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It took me awhile to get into this book. I found it sought of long and drawn out. It shows how things can turn on a dime, not always in a good way.
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This was slow moving, depressing, and hard to read. I put it down after struggling through 60 pages.
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This was in a bag of books my sister shared with me. The title rang a bell for me. I started reading it today, and right away remembered that I actually did read this book many years ago, probably in the mid 1990s. I can't recall every last detail of the book, but I do remember I enjoyed it very much. I'm tempted to read it again, but I have strict rules about not reading books twice when there are still so many books in my "to be read" pile.

The fact that I like it so much tells me that this is probably a dark, gloomy, and morose book. It's always those kinds of tragic stories that draw me in and captivate me. So, if that type of story really turns you off this may not be the book for you. If not, then I highly recommend this great book.
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Really great read!
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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:
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Excellent read - an Oprah book club choice
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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+!
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Good read
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I could not get with this at all...
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Great Read.
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Very good read
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FINDING YOUR WAY, LIVING WITH GUILT
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Great book!!
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Good read. One of the better reads from Oprah's list.
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bought this book when Oprah picked it....just never could get into it....
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This second novel by Hamilton (The Book of Ruth, LJ 11/1/88) is a stunning exploration of how one careless moment can cause irrevocable and devastating change. Alice Goodwin is caring for her best friend's children when two-year-old Lizzy Collins wanders to the pond on the Goodwin farm and drowns. The consequences of this tragedy reverberate through a small Wisconsin community, which never accepted Howard and Alice Goodwin. Theresa Collins, bereft at losing a child and a dear friend, draws on her Catholic religion and finds forgiveness. Alice, immobilized by guilt and grief and unable to function as a wife or mother to her own two daughters, is charged with abusing children in her part-time job as a school nurse. Lizzy's death is ever present-especially in the bond growing between Theresa and Howard while Alice is in jail-and the pain of it is echoed in Alice's primary young accuser and in Alice as a child, drawing her own map of the world after her mother died. Reminiscent of Rosellen Brown's Tender Mercies (1978), this compelling, multilayered fiction belongs in all collections.
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Two copies (one too many)
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from the back cover; Stunning prose and unforgettable characters.....an enthralling tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control.
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From Publishers Weekly: "Booksellers should send up three cheers of greeting for this haunting second novel by the author of The Book of Ruth , a beautifully developed and written story reminiscent of the work of Sue Miller and Jane Smiley. A piercing picture of domestic relationships under the pressure of calamitous circumstances, it poignantly addresses the capricious turns of fate and the unyielding grip of regret. Alice and Howard Goodwin and their two young daughters live on the last remaining dairy farm on the outskirts of Racine, Wisc. The farm is Howard's dream, realized with infusions of money from his disapproving mother; but Alice, who is disorganized, skittery and emotionally volatile, is constitutionally unsuited to be a farmer's wife. Her solace is her best friend Theresa, who also has two little girls for whom they alternate days of babysitting. One hot, dry June morning, in the middle of a soul-parching drought, Alice daydreams for a few, crucial minutes while the four girls play. She has rediscovered the map of the world that she made after her own mother died when she was eight; it was an attempt to imagine a place where she would always feel safe and secure. In that short time, one of Theresa's daughters drowns in the Goodwins' pond. As outsiders from the city, the Goodwins have never been accepted in their small community, which now closes forces against them. Still grieving and filled with remorse, Alice, a school nurse, is accused by an opportunistic mother of sexually molesting her son. She is arrested, and since Howard cannot raise bail, she remains in jail, where she suffers but also learns a great deal about human frailty and solidarity. Meanwhile, Howard and the girls undergo their own crucible of fire. Among Hamilton's gifts is a perfect ear for the interchanges of domestic life. The voices of Alice and Howard, who narrate the tale, have an elegiac, yet compelling tone as they look back on the events that swept them into a horrifying nightmare. In counterpoint to the shocks that transform their existence, the drudgery of the daily routine of farm life has rarely been conveyed with such fidelity. Fittingly, however, the death of their hopes as a family coincides with Howard's realization that the farmer's way of life is disappearing as well. The last third of the book, detailing Alice's incarceration among mainly black inmates, is astonishingly perceptive and credible, opening new dimensions in the narrative. One wants to read this powerful novel at one sitting, mesmerized by a story that has universal implications. BOMC and QPB selection." Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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didn't read
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also with bookcrossing