A Map of the World: A Novel

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A Map of the World: A Novel

by Jane Hamilton

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | December 3, 1999 | Trade Paperback |

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From the author of the widely acclaimed The Book of Ruth comes a harrowing, heartbreaking drama about a rural American family and a disastrous event that forever changes their lives.

The Goodwins, Howard, Alice, and their little girls, Emma and Claire, live on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. Although suspiciously regarded by their neighbors as "that hippie couple" because of their well-educated, urban background, Howard and Alice believe they have found a source of emotional strength in the farm, he tending the barn while Alice works as a nurse in the local elementary school.

But their peaceful life is shattered one day when a neighbor''s two-year-old daughter drowns in the Goodwins'' pond while under Alice''s care. Tormented by the accident, Alice descends even further into darkness when she is accused of sexually abusing of a student at the elementary school. Soon, Alice is arrested, incarcerated, and as good as convicted in the eyes of a suspicious community. As a child, Alice designed her own map of the world to find her bearings. Now, as an adult, she must find her way again, through a maze of lies, doubt and ill will.

A vivid human drama of guilt and betrayal, A Map of the World chronicles the intricate geographies of the human heart and all its mysterious, uncharted terrain.  The result is a piercing drama about family bonds and a disappearing rural American life.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: December 3, 1999

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385720106

ISBN - 13: 9780385720106

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

A Map of the World: A Novel

A Map of the World: A Novel

by Jane Hamilton

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: December 3, 1999

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385720106

ISBN - 13: 9780385720106

Read from the Book

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. I hadn''t learned that it can happen so gradually you don''t lose your stomach or hurt yourself in the landing. You don''t necessarily sense the motion. I''ve found it takes at least two and generally three things to alter the course of a life: You slip around the truth once, and then again, and one more time, and there you are, feeling, for a moment, that it was sudden, your arrival at the bottom of the heap. I opened my eyes on a Monday morning in June last summer and I heard, somewhere far off, a siren belting out calamity. It was the last time I would listen so simply to a sound that could mean both disaster and pursuit. Emma and Claire were asleep and safe in their beds, and my own heart seemed to be beating regularly. If the barn was out the window, clean, white, the grass cropped as close as a golf course, the large fan whirring in the doorway, then my husband Howard was all right. I raised up to take a look. It was still standing, just as I suspected it would be. I had never said out loud a little joke I used to say to myself now and again: Everywhere that barn goes, Howard, you are sure to be close behind. He was a philosophical and poetical farmer who bought Golden Guernseys because he both liked their color and the way "Golden Guernsey" floated off his tongue. It was secondary that the breed was famous for their butterfat
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From the Publisher

From the author of the widely acclaimed The Book of Ruth comes a harrowing, heartbreaking drama about a rural American family and a disastrous event that forever changes their lives.

The Goodwins, Howard, Alice, and their little girls, Emma and Claire, live on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. Although suspiciously regarded by their neighbors as "that hippie couple" because of their well-educated, urban background, Howard and Alice believe they have found a source of emotional strength in the farm, he tending the barn while Alice works as a nurse in the local elementary school.

But their peaceful life is shattered one day when a neighbor''s two-year-old daughter drowns in the Goodwins'' pond while under Alice''s care. Tormented by the accident, Alice descends even further into darkness when she is accused of sexually abusing of a student at the elementary school. Soon, Alice is arrested, incarcerated, and as good as convicted in the eyes of a suspicious community. As a child, Alice designed her own map of the world to find her bearings. Now, as an adult, she must find her way again, through a maze of lies, doubt and ill will.

A vivid human drama of guilt and betrayal, A Map of the World chronicles the intricate geographies of the human heart and all its mysterious, uncharted terrain.  The result is a piercing drama about family bonds and a disappearing rural American life.

From the Jacket

"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

About the Author

Jane Hamilton lives, works, and writes in an orchard farmhouse in Wisconsin. Her short stories have appeared in Harper''s Magazine, and her first book, The Book of Ruth, was awarded the 1989 PENHemingway Foundation Award for best first novel. Seven years after its publication, The Book of Ruth was chosen for the Oprah Book Club, giving it a second life. In 1994 Hamilton published A Map of the World which became an international best seller, and in 1998, The Short History of a Prince, which won the Heartland Prize for Fiction, and was shortlisted for Britain''s Orange Prize.

From Our Editors

Together with her husband Tom, Alice Goodwin creates a new life for her family in Wisconsin. But after the neighbours' daughter drowns in the Goodwins' pond, Alice's life begins to slowly unravel at the seams... and when she is accused of sexual assault at work, she finds that she has few allies to turn to. Widely praised by critics, A Map of the World, by PEN / Hemingway Award-winning author Jane Hamilton, is a selection for Oprah's Book Club. Don't miss this deeply poignant story of one woman's life - and the tragedy that threatens to take it away from her.  

Editorial Reviews

"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

Bookclub Guide

1. In the opening pages of the novel, Alice says about her situation, "Now, in my more charitable moods, I wonder if our hardworking community members punished us for something as intangible as whimsy. We would not have felt eccentric in a northern city, but in Prairie Center we were perhaps outside the bounds of the collective imagination." (p. 4) How does the idea of alienation figure into the novel? Why do Dan and Theresa belong to Prairie Center? Does Howard belong? Feeling that she doesn''t belong, could Alice have done anything to make herself less vulnerable to public censure?

2. Compare the different ways the characters grieve: Are there parallels in the husbandwife relationships within the couples--Alice and Howard, Theresa and Dan--and how each spouse expresses, or fails to express, his or her own grief? Do the characters'' respective genders play a role in the way they deal with grief? What role does grief play in Howard''s relationship with Theresa?

3. What is the function of Howard''s narration? Does his perspective change your feelings about Alice and what happens to her? Is it clear why he doubts her?

4. Does Alice''s sense of her own inadequacy contribute to how she is viewed by the people of Prairie Center? Does it contribute to Howard''s feelings towards her?

5. At the outset of the novel, Alice says, "I had always suspected that Howard was able to slip into a phone booth, shed his rubber overalls right down to a blue body suit, and then take off into the sky, scooping up the children with one strong arm.... He has always been capable." (p. 9) What are some of Howard and Alice''s respective strengths and weaknesses? Is either one stronger than the other in any way?

6. At the point of the novel when Alice is arrested, she is still completely overwhelmed and incapacitated by Lizzy''s death and her role in it. How do the accusations against Alice and her time in prison change her and help her to deal with what happened to Lizzy?

7. What is revealed about Alice through her interaction with other prisoners? Does her sense of belonging shift while in prison? What new perspectives does she gain?

8. While in the jail hospital, Alice reflects on her marriage, "Lying in the hospital bed I thought to myself that my passion for Howard had soon been replaced by something that was stronger than respect, or habit, or maybe even need.... "I wasn''t certain the group of feelings wouldn''t cancel each other out, if any of them could possibly be powerful enough to carry me along by his side, shoulder to shoulder." (p. 298) What binds Alice and Howard? Do the events of the novel change the essence of those ties?

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