A Map of the World
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3558.A4428 M36 1994|
A Map of the World (1994) is a novel by Jane Hamilton. It was the Oprah's Book Club selection for December 1999. It was made into a movie released in 1999 starring Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, David Strathairn, Chloë Sevigny, Louise Fletcher and Marc Donato with a soundtrack by Pat Metheny.
The book is concerned with how one seemingly inconsequential moment can alter lives forever. Alice Goodwin, mother of two, school nurse and wife of an aspiring dairy farmer in Wisconsin, is getting ready to take her two daughters and her best friend, Theresa's two little girls to their farm pond to swim. When she goes upstairs to find her bathing suit, Lizzy, Theresa's 2-year-old, slips away to the pond and drowns. It all goes downhill from there. The town tramp, whom Alice reprimanded for constantly bringing her sick son to school, accuses Alice of molesting her child. The entire town turns on the Goodwin family, fairly new to the area, and several other mothers come forward with tales of Alice's "abuse". Imprisonment, trial and loss of the farm ensue and Alice's husband and Theresa become "involved."
The novel is essentially about a search for authenticity in the contemporary American midwest. A couple struggles to maintain their lives on a farm, keep to ethical practices of both farming and living, and to raise their two young children, but American society stymies their efforts. The novel is an indictment of the U.S. legal system, which works with the subtlety and mercy of a sledgehammer; the farming system, which values dollars over good food and the environment; and the American idea of marriage, which is falling apart from its own internal contradictions. However, the novel manages to be very funny throughout. Its humor comes out not just in the wicked, scathing sentences of its first third, told in a voice that one imagines is close to the author's own, but also in the structural choice of placing section two in the voice of the hilariously but tragically non-verbal husband. The contrast between husband's and wife's thinking is far more eloquent and entertaining than the recent popular psychological studies on the subject of male-female mental processes. Also included: the annoyingly efficient but oblivious mother-in-law, class and race differences but from a female perspective, and the politics of a small town.
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