A Map of the World: A Novel by Jane HamiltonA Map of the World: A Novel by Jane Hamilton

A Map of the World: A Novel

byJane Hamilton

Paperback | December 3, 1999

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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.
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, givin...
Title:A Map of the World: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:400 pages, 7.98 × 5.12 × 0.83 inPublished:December 3, 1999Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385720106

ISBN - 13:9780385720106

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not bad Slow to get into but a decent read
Date published: 2017-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVE I loved this book when I was younger and still keep re-reading.
Date published: 2017-04-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Big dissapointment I was very disappointed with this book. The beginning chapters were very hard to get into.I didn't like how it jumped narrators... although you did get to see how both husband and wife were feeling.I thought that Alice was boring as a character. The entire book was a let down.With all the rave reviews about it, I guess I was expecting more.
Date published: 2012-02-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Sorry,a little too depressing for me I wish the sad story line could have been brightened up a little. I needed a pick me up when I was finished.
Date published: 2009-08-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Event of the Year! You are sure to get pulled into the world of Alice and Howard and their struggle to fit into a rural community whom have known each other since birth. They are seen as outsiders and treated as such. They can't get anyone to babysit for them, or go to socials; that is until they meet Theresa and Dan. They become an inseparable foursome and babysit for each others children regularly. But their now picture-perfect world falls apart when Theresa's oldest child Lizzy drowns in a pond while Alice is babysitting. Theresa and Dan's grief quickly turns to anger and disappointment. The relationship between these four and again put to the test when Alice is accused of sexually assaulting children at the school where she is a nurse, it is here that Alice's life begins to slowly unravel at the seams. Without Theresa to strengthen her Alice falls apart when she is sent to jail. The story is then twisted with the love affair of Howard and Theresa as they try to console one another in their times of need.
Date published: 2001-06-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An emotional read I found this to be a very emotionally draining read, particularily at the begining, given the content of the story-line. And yet I very much liked the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Hamiliton's unique writing style, by writing from both Alice and Howard's perspective. I would highly recommend this book!
Date published: 2000-12-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wow - self revalation At first I didn't like Alice. I thought she had a lot to say - but never really said anything when she spoke to anyone. Then Howard perspective - loved the book. Alice came back and what I realized was that what I did not like in Alice was what I do not like in myself.
Date published: 2000-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Discovering a new Favourite Author It always brings me such joy when I can add a "new favourite Author" to my list. Ms. Hamilton writes as though she started with the first word on the first page and wrote right through to the end without stopping. As though there was never a beat, a moment, when she had to stop and think to change a word, a phrase, a sentence. She deals with several profoundly disturbing subjects, and yet the story begins with such humour, she is able to draw you in from the first page, and keep you turning them. I can't wait for her next book. (I already went back and read her "Book of Ruth") "Map of the World" is a must-read for all book lovers and writers.
Date published: 2000-11-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from not recommended... I was very disappointed in this Oprah pick. I found Alice to be a whiner, and the book seemed to run on and on about nothing at all of importance to the main story. I can't understand why Oprah would find this book up to scale with her other wonderful monthly picks.
Date published: 2000-10-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Map of the World The heroine and the players surrounding her are complex characters, whose actions and behaviours are interesting, and at times, frustrating to observe. She is one of those characters that you both sympathize with and feel annoyed with for her excruciating honesty. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and had difficulty putting it down until it was finished.
Date published: 2000-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Riviting This page turner appeals to a reader who enjoys the challenge of ethical decisions in a world turned upside down and shaken to its core beginning with a sudden tragedy. The response of a whole community, the guilt, the deceit, the betrayals and the demands of friendship that grow more and more challenging and which arise from the tragedy gives a breathtaking portrayal of simple families torn apart. I could not put this book down!
Date published: 2000-08-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Frightening & Gutwrenching A Map of the World so clearly portrays how events beyond your control can completely turn your world upside down in moments. I could relate to Alice and Howard as a couple who finally were realizing lifelong dreams of having a farm to only have it wrenched away from them. As I am in the middle of realizing some lifelong dreams, I found this very scary. It must have been so difficult for Howard to leave it all behind - what a tradegy. I admire the choices he made. What a gutwrenching story. Although we can survive when tradegy strikes, it doesn't necessarily mean we go on "living". What a scary concept...
Date published: 2000-07-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from And your point is......? I must appologize to any who enjoyed this book, but I honestly found that A Map of the World was a great disappointment. I can usually read anything and make a point of finishing any novel that I start...unfortunately I have been working (the operative word being WORKING) on this book for almost 3 months and I can't bring myself to pick it up for more than a few paragraphs at a time. PPPLLLEEAAAAAASSSSEEEEEEE do NOT purchase this book unless you are ready to make a lifetime commitment to finishing it.
Date published: 2000-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Map of the World I read this book in less than two days. I thought it was very well written. I was so involved with the characters and felt her pain and sorrow throughout the book. I would recommend this fine piece of literature to anyone with a kind heart. It makes one realize how fast things in our life can change.
Date published: 2000-07-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Get Into the Meat of It ... After reading just the first few pages, I thought about sending this book back to my sister who lent it to me. However, I perservered, and believe it or not the read got better and better. By mid-novel, Alice and her husband became very captivating, and I began to feel as they did, drowning in the chaos that their life had become. Perservere through this book and I think you will really enjoy it. It is a learning experience rather than a good summer read.
Date published: 2000-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Garanteed Reading Addiction I have read this book in a flash. As recommended by Oprah, I purchased this book to help with the cold winter nights. It turned out that I was rearranging my daily activities in order to have more time to read the stunning novel. A Map of the World is beautifully written by Jane Hamilton. She puts her emotions and spirit in this book. She revealed the detailed adventures of Alice during her descent in the downward spiral of emotions. A garanteed emotional adventure... Annie
Date published: 2000-06-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from No Page Turner I found it difficult to get to the next page it was so boring. The story was long and drawn out. I thought I was never going to finish it. The only reason I did finish it was because I paid money for the book and didn't want it to go to waste.
Date published: 2000-06-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Tough Read Starts out well, but becomes a tough read. I found it irritatingly unbelieveable as Alice does not deal with her ever mounting problems. I was hoping for a tale of courage, but would have preferred to hear the tale from the other side, the character of Theresa was admirably strong, sympathetic, and wonderful.
Date published: 2000-06-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Unable to Get Through It I was totally disappointed in this Oprah pick. This is the first one of her picks that I did not enjoy. I found the characters unrealistic and the story was too depressing. What was Oprah thinking about when she recommended this book. When I read a book I want to be encouraged to turn to the next page. This book put me to sleep. I couldn't even finish it and I would not recommend it. I'm not even passing it along to a friend let alone giving it to charity. This is definitly one for the trash.
Date published: 2000-06-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from What a disappointment A Map of the World is the first book I can honestly say I have not been able to get through. Alice's character was so pitiful it became annoying. I am in amazement that some found this book impossible to put down - my temptation was to throw it as far as I could!
Date published: 2000-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ?? I did enjoy the book but not as much as other Oprah picks...
Date published: 2000-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hard to Put Down I received this book last week as a birthday present. Picked it up earlier this week, having thought I'd successfully battle my endorphin-induced insomnia. No luck in getting to sleep easily. I finally forced myself to put the book away but picked it up again the following day to read during any spare minute I had. As depressing and sometimes frustrating the story was, I still found it all-consuming. I'm definitely planning on reading Jane Hamilton's "The Book of Ruth" now, particularly since one of the reviewers much preferred it to "A Map of the World".
Date published: 2000-06-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Map of the World I was disappointed by this book. I took it on vacation hoping to be taken into another world and unable to put it down, but instead I found myself skimming pages just to get through it.
Date published: 2000-05-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Map of the World Long and drawn out. If any interviews/reviews have been seen about this book, you already know the story.
Date published: 2000-05-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Will I ever get through this? I have been reading this book for over 2 mths now. I was about to give up but since the last 20 pages seem to be the best... I will read on.
Date published: 2000-04-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A MUST Read!!!! A gripping tale of a woman who is forced to deal with some of life's toughest problems. This book keep its readers enthralled from begining to end. You find yourself rooting for Alice even if you don't like her character. A superbly written novel that is sure to please it's readers!
Date published: 2000-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from this book is a page-turner! I bought this book last week, and haven't been able to put it down! Alice Goodwin's character is strong and resilient, even in the worst circumstances. And at this point in her life, Alice's circumstances couldn't get any worse. We see her striving to be a "good wife and mother," before tragedy strikes. Alice is babysitting her friend's daughter when the toddler accidentally drowns. As a reader, I felt like I wanted to desperately reach out to Alice and tell her that she wasn't to blame, that this could have happened to anyone. What follows is even more dramatic....Alice's life takes a tragic turn, as she is seperated from her family and imprisoned for alleged sexual abuse. Her husband Howard also narrates part of this book, and it is very interesting to see his character grow, and open up and learn to love like he never has. A highly recommended read!
Date published: 2000-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Map of the World I received this book as a Christmas gift from my husband. I am not an avid reader but found this book to be excellent. I had a hard time putting it down and when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking of what was going to happen next. It is an excellent book and most people can relate to this book with the way society is today. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is a book that you can't put down!!
Date published: 2000-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Map of the World I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am not much of a reader but was given this book for Christmas from my husband. I had a hard time putting it down and when I wasn't reading, I was thinking of this book and what was going to happen to Alice. It is a fantastic book and would recommend it to others. It was good from start to finish. I am looking forward to seeing the movie when it comes out.
Date published: 2000-02-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from map of the world I just wanted people to know that I found this book to be so close to what society is turning into these days. I usually take my time reading a book, a couple of weeks of bed time reading only, I finished this one in 2 1/2 days. Very good read with a lot of different emotions.
Date published: 2000-02-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Whatta drag! I've been having a tough time reading this book over the past 2 months now (Alice's story just goes on and on....). However, I wanted to thank Jen from Oakville, since I was starting to think I wouldn't finish the book. The last 20 pages are OK? Maybe I'll give it one last shot.....
Date published: 2000-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good The story has it's twists and turns. The author alternates between Alice and Howard's point of view. It was enlightening to see how two people can feel and react differently to the same situation.
Date published: 2000-01-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Map of the World I was very disappointed, The Book of Ruth was so well written,I was looking forward to her next book. However, I found it dragged on, and that Alice's life couldn't not get any worst. The best part of the book was the last 20 pages. The only reason this book made it to Oprah's Book Club was because she was mentioned in it!
Date published: 2000-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a truly remarkable triumph. . . . . . . . I had the chance once again to view Hamilton's literary genius with this truly tragic novel. As the main character tries to get her life together after the first tragic event she finds herself the centre of a horrible lie which proves that life is indeed unfair.
Date published: 2000-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Map of the World This book is definitely not predictable! The main character "Alice" takes you through so many different twists and turns, it stays interesting cover to cover. I also like how it was written from alternating perspectives of both the main character and her husband.
Date published: 2000-01-19

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. I worried about his choice when we bought the farm because I was certain that poetry is almost never rewarded. Now, in my more charitable moods, I wonder if our hardworking, God-fearing 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.The ambulances were streaking down the highway while I lay in bed in our farmhouse, in what used to be a very small town called Prairie Junction. Three years before they had built a greyhound racetrack outside of the city limits, a facility which has brought so many businesses and goods and services to the area the governing body voted to change the name of the new, improved version of our town to Prairie Center. Even people who lived there could never remember where they were.I wondered if a building was burning down, if there was a car accident at the perilous intersection, or a baby coming early in one of the subdivisions. Our range of disaster in that town was fairly limited, but we were due for something, certainly. The last rain had come at the beginning of April and now, at the first of June, all but the hardiest mosquitoes had left their papery skins in the grass. It was already seven o'clock in the morning, long past time to close the windows and doors, trap what was left of the night air, slightly cooler only by virtue of the dark. The dust on the gravel had just enough energy to drift a short distance and then collapse on the flower beds. The sun had a white cast, as if shade and shadow, any flicker of nuance, had been burned out by its own fierce center. There would be no late afternoon gold, no pale early morning yellow, no flaming orange at sunset. If the plants had vocal cords they would sing their holy dirges like slaves.I often had the fanciful thought that the pond would save us; it would be the one thing that would postpone our deaths by scorching as the climate of our part of the world changed. We were going to spend the long summer months ahead thinking always of the relief of our own unspoiled waters. Most afternoons our daughters, Emma and Claire, and I, and occasionally Howard, farmer, husband, and father, would walk the thirty yards down the wooded path to the jewel of the property, the clear water gurgling up from a spring into a seven-acre pond. There were no leeches, no film or scum or snapping turtles, no monstrous vestiges from the Cretaceous Age lurking in the depths. There, under the blazing sun, were cool, clean ripples spreading from their mysterious source and fanning to the shore, while trout circled beneath.I needed to get out of bed. Howard, in his quiet, sissing voice, soothing as a dove, had told me to sleep in, but I should have been up to help him, should have woken hours earlier. I lay still and took another minute to smell: I smelled the warm, sweet, all-pervasive smell of silage, as well as the sour dirty laundry spilling over the basket in the hall. I could pick out the acrid smell of Claire's drenched diaper, her sweaty feet, and her hair crusted with sand. The heat compounded the smells, doubled the fragrance. Howard always smelled and through the house his scent seemed always to be warm. His was a musky smell, as if the source of a muddy river, the Nile or the Mississippi, began right in his armpits. I had grown used to thinking of his smell as the fresh man smell of hard work. Too long without washing and I tenderly beat his knotty arms with my fists. That morning there was alfalfa on his pillow and cow manure embedded in his tennis shoes and the cuffs of his coveralls that lay by the bed. Those were sweet reminders of him. He had gone out as one shaft of searing light came through the window. He had put on clean clothes to milk the cows.I knew just then, in a brief glimmer of truth, that the stink and mess, the frenetic dullness of farming, our marriage, the tedium of work and love—all of it was my savior. Half the world seemed to be scheming to escape husbands or wives, but I was planted firmly enough, striving, always striving, to take root. I was sure that that morning our family was connected by a ribbon of pure, steaming, binding, inviolable stench, going from room to room and out to the barn. I was so far from my mistakes of the school year, never considering in the freedom of summer that my winter's missteps could strain our vigorous bonds.At breakfast I was putting out bowls when Claire banged her spoon on the table and announced, "I'm going to die when you do.""What?" I said, once in a voice roughly an octave lower than usual, and then again in my normal register. "What?" What had possessed Claire, three years old, to say such a thing, other than the terrible force of our doomsayer genes? Or was she prescient? Did she see before her our wrecked car, the Jaws of Life working in vain to extract what was left of us? In any case, I wasn't paying strict attention that morning; I didn't think about my five-year-old daughter, Emma, requiring milk in her red plastic cup so that she could pour her own milk over her cereal. In all innocence I poured the unpasteurized, completely homogenized milk from our cows straight from the blue pitcher into Emma's bowl."WHAT ARE YOU DOING?""Christ," I said under my breath.Emma's shrieks made our one crystal vase rattle and the blood pound in my head. She was flailing in her chair as if she'd been inadequately electrocuted. I knew from experience that there was not going to be any quick consolation for my transgression. "Emma, Emma, Emma," I said, wishing I could somehow teach her to take the smaller blows of life in stride. It was possible my blunder would start a chain reaction that might last a full morning, one tantrum after the next, each round going off when we least expected it."Why did you do that?" she sobbed. She was the child who was frequently on the verge of hysteria, the tears right under her lids waiting to fall. She was so often unhappy about what she didn't have or was about to receive. We led a hectic life, and she had a darling baby sister who had stolen some of her thunder, but even so her tantrums were excessive, indeed violent. They frightened me. They seemed to be about so much more than the protocol I had not observed. "Emma, I'm sorry," I said. "I wasn't thinking. Did I ever tell you about Aunt Kate's chicken pitcher that clucked when it was empty?" Of course I had told her about the chicken. I had told her about the magical porcelain pitcher countless times and she usually interrupted, begging for one just like it. "If you want to start over," I said, "I'd be glad to fill your cup with milk and begin again."She threw her head back and groaned. My dispensation meant nothing. Her skin was already so brown that when she spread her fingers in her woe the little webs between were white as pearl. Her face, stretched to the limit with exaggerated heartbreak, was red and blotchy. I wasn't sure I could bear a day like that one was sure to be, and I slammed my hands down on the table, saying, with such exquisite self-control I felt as if I was singing, "Emma, if you need to scream and cry and carry on you may go sit on the chair in the hall.""Why," Emma heaved, "did you do that to me?""I did not do anything to you," I explained, with emphasis on every word. "I will count to three, and if you are still in a temper you will go to the chair." That was the procedure my neighbor Theresa used with great success to discipline her children. I counted. Emma remained seated during the punctuated and fractionated count from zero to three. Even after I was done, absolutely no place to go after three, I waited, giving her the chance to bolt. In the end there was nothing to do but lift her under her arms and drag her away. She kicked and tossed her head back and forth, snarling and spitting. She could be a torment, a humiliation, at nearly six years of age carrying on as if she was preparing for the role of Helen Keller. I didn't know how the calm and deep wellspring of mother love could sustain itself through years of such storms. I hated her being so unreasonable and so fierce in her anger. She didn't have any right to be angry!There was a black chair in the hall that had been set there for those occasions, and when I forced her onto the worn seat she dug her fingernails into my arm and pulled down so that blood sprang up from the scratches. "Stay there," I growled. I stumbled back into the kitchen and set the timer for five minutes. My hands were shaking. I looked at my arm, at the three bloody tracks. Emma's rage was as perfect an anger as I could think of, flowing spontaneously on a moment's notice from the depth of her being, where a careful accounting of justice, swift as light, must take place. I could have cried at the terror of it, the surprise, the strength of her fury; I could have cried because I knew that I was responsible for her anger; I wanted to cry most of all because I had wanted to right my own wrongs, to raise a loving family, and I had instead produced a hellion. A hellion! She would pursue us through our lives, fueled by rage, crashing into the nursing home where I would sit slumped over in a wheelchair, to give me a piece of her mind. Emma, more than anyone I had ever known, made me think in outlandish terms, in measurements that occasionally extended through to eternity. I covered the scratch with my other hand. "What did you say a minute ago?" I asked Claire, who was sitting straight in her chair peeling the stickers off the bananas. Her short sleek, dark hair was molded around her head like a close-fitting cap."I forget," was all. Our daughters had forged their roles early on with our unwitting complicity: Emma, the bad. Claire, the good. Emma had come hard into this world. "Who are you?" we had hardly dared to ask as she miraculously sucked and burped and moved her bowels. "Where did you come from?" We had stood over her waiting for her, our creation, to find her hands, to sit; we begged her to walk, to use the shape sorter properly, to say our names. We wanted to know she was normal and secretly hoped she was quite a bit above average. We were so careful, buying her skid-proof socks and a bike helmet for the goat cart. At night Howard and I fell asleep discussing her intelligence and her remarks. Claire was the blessed second child, nothing more than a baby, someone who had come to live at our house, who would grow up in her own time, her achievements more often than not overlooked in the confusion of getting to work, scratching up meals, finding clean clothes.When the timer rang, Emma marched into the kitchen, climbed on her chair, turned her bowl over, and then dropped it to the floor, a look of triumph on her tearstained face. The bowl smashed. I fetched the broom, without missing a step, as if the scene had been choreographed, swept up the broken porcelain and then walked out into the yard, slamming the kitchen door behind me with all my might. She had been sitting so peacefully on the black chair, not because she was obedient, but because she had been hatching her plot.Outside, the air smelled as if it had been cooked, as if it had been altered by the heat and was no longer life sustaining."Don't leave me!" Emma shouted from the porch.I did not direct my answer to her. I was cupping my hand over the yellow cat's face while it went wild with the prospect of near suffocation. During the next tantrum I would have to tell Emma that I was going to count to infinity, that I would give her that much time to compose herself. I was hissing, shaking the poor cat as I lectured him, when Howard said, 'What are you doing, Alice?"He was standing in the doorway of the milk house, wearing his rubber overalls and his rubber boots, each the length of a basset hound. The open buckles on the boots and the metal hooks on the overalls jangled when he moved. I felt a rush of admiration for him, in his stiff, clattery suit that on anyone else would have looked oafish. Because he himself was commanding he gave even a rubbery old hillbilly getup dignity."What am I doing?" I asked myself, prying the cat's claws from my shirt. "I'm about to suffocate this cat instead of our daughter, that's all," I said, snorting, as if I'd made a joke. Without saying, he'd know I meant Emma."I'll be in soon, as soon as I can." He turned and shuffled into his barn. His overalls were pulled too tight in the back and had the beguiling effect of the wicked schoolboy's trick known as Chinese laundry."I'm handling it fine, Howard, I really think I am." I sometimes felt dismayed because he didn't seem to trust me the way he should have. "I'm pretty sure I'm doing the right thing," I said under my breath, "strangling the cat instead of Emma."I had always suspected that deep down 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 before he made off to a land where milk naturally flows in the rivers. He has always been capable. This is my fondest image from his childhood: Howard, nine years old, is in his back yard in Minneapolis, setting up battalions of toy soldiers and then digging the firecrackers into the ground, lighting them, and exploding his armies. The noise, the smoke, the destruction, are not only thrilling, but beautiful. I can so well imagine the pleasure he would have gotten from being the master planner. In his family album he always has the same crew cut and he doesn't smile. He was a solemn boy who was taught that life is both important and nice. When I first knew him he believed in irresistible notions as the result of living in a neighborhood brimming with Lutherans. He believed that God gave people certain gifts and that if you used them appropriately you'd travel the path that was there expressly for you. His Maker was organized, just like his mother. For Howard, life was never ridiculous; humans, at heart, were not even remotely foolish.I could see him disappearing through the inner door to the milking parlor. "Don't rush yourself," I called, dropping the cat. "Theresa is bringing her girls over so we'll be fine without your—' I was thinking the words, "model of control."The night before, our neighbors, Dan and Theresa, had come for dinner with their children. And in our yard, in the spot where I stood, Howard had thrown the glow-in-the-dark ball up in the air, the four little girls fluttering like bats, rising and falling, barely visible in the dark. The luminous ball, a strange glowing green, bounced in the grass and the littlest girl, Lizzy, clapped and shouted, "Moon. Moon. Moon."When I got to the house, Claire was dutifully eating her cereal. Emma sat in her chair sucking on a strand of her stringy hair. "Someone forgot to feed me breakfast," she choked."I'd like some now," I said. "Would you rather I ate here with you, so we could talk about our day, or should I take the tray out to the porch, where there is peace and quiet?""Here," Emma said. "Could I please have something to eat?""Certainly." I smiled a tight, close-lipped smile at my reformed daughter. Welcome back, I wanted to say. We will tread so carefully, so lightly, so you will not go off again."Tell me," she said, "exactly what the plan is."

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?

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