A Map of the World
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A Map of the World

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  43,716 ratings  ·  1,115 reviews
One unremarkable June morning, Alice Goodwin is, as usual, trying to keep in check both her temper and her tendency to blame herself for her family's shortcomings. When the Goodwins took over the last dairy farm in the small Midwestern town of Prairie Center, they envisioned their home a self-made paradise. But these days, as Alice is all too aware, her elder daughter Emma...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 3rd 1999 by Anchor Books (first published May 1st 1992)
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Oprah's Book Club Picks
39th out of 75 books — 1,140 voters
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Best Women's Fiction Novels
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Community Reviews

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Susan
Apr 28, 2008 Susan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: patient people interested in tragedy, grief, and emotional struggle
Review contains some spoilers...

This book was well written, however it was terribly depressing. It is about a mother's worst nightmare. A child she is watching for her best friend drowns in her lake while she is distracted. Then she falls into a terrible depression/guilt and in the midst of all that she is accused by a student at the school where she is a nurse of abusing him.

For some crazy reason, despite complaining regularly to Per about it, I struggled through the whole thing. I just couldn...more
David
Dear God, the exercise in bleakness that was "A Map of the World" - what possible point was there in forcing us through the baby-drowning, the molestation accusations, time in jail, and so on? In the words of Dorothy Parker, a book that should be flung away with great force.

Julie
I finished this book only becuase I had started it. I am not going to pass this on to anyone as I would not recommend it.
Although I liked the story I did not like the writing style. I found the narrative wordy and found myself skipping over paragraphs that didn't advance the story.
Also, the story was a bit harsh - the people on the subdivision were made out to be mindless drones, "everyone" was against Alice - too black and white.

When I finished the book I read the paragraph about the author an...more
Jamie
So I'm not a huge fan of Oprah (or even a little one), but she sure knows how to pick a good book. Jane Hamilton is an author from (and still living in) Wisconsin where this book takes place. (Turns out her son just graduated from Lawrence this past year!)

Anyway... the book is about a woman whose life turns upside down in a matter of weeks. It is seriously some of the best prose I have read in a long time. The first and third parts of the book are written from the main character's perspective a...more
Angie
As I began reading this book, I thought I would really enjoy it because the writing is wonderful and the story (a farm family trying to make it work as suburbia grows up around them, then the tragic drowning of a little girl in their pond) seemed good too. However, it started out as one story and transformed into a different one (the wife, a school nurse, accused of abuse by a student and the ensuing challenges) and I didn't see the point in the change. The last 1/3 of the book was almost drudge...more
Rachel Crooks
I don't really know what to say about this book now. Will I remember it a year from now? Not sure. But it did keep me reading. Throughout the story, Alice and Howard were both given their own voices, but were also spoken about by each other. It surprised me that seeing Alice from inside her head was much different from seeing her through Howard's eyes. He saw her self-assurance and strength of personality, her unique individuality, while she saw her klutziness and inability to get things right....more
Shira Karp
I read this book a few years ago, but I still remember vividly how much it moved me. This was one of those books that I just couldn't stop thinking about for weeks after I read it and when I turned the last page I knew it was one of those books that's impossible to follow, so I shouldn't bother to try reading a book I'm expecting to be really good after it. Point in case- I don't even remember what it was I read right after this book.
Kathleen
I am fascinated by the concept of how a small error or mistake can change your life entirely. It was also why I enjoyed House Of Sand And Fog. The circumstances are tragic in both of these books, yet it does make me wonder how a small misstep or error in judgement can result in so much going wrong. The error in judgement by the main character here is something I have done, yet the results were not tragic by some turn of fate. It has also happened to people around me and makes you so thankful tha...more
Charissa
May 20, 2008 Charissa rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who clearly haven't had enough misery in their lives already
Recommended to Charissa by: my mother (go figure)
There is hardly anything more depressing than this story. I just couldn't face it in the end. Call me wacky, but I just didn't need to wade into a tale about three unhappy people, two of whom are having an affair, another of whom accidentally allows the other's child to drown in her creek and then goes to prison for it. Bleak? Just slightly. I understand that Sigourney Weaver played the prison woman in the film of the book. Appropriate. Her pinched, gaunt appearance was perfect for the way this...more
Agape
This book follows a woman named Alice who grew up a bit lost, unbalanced and in need of a compass in life. Having lost her own mother at a young age and brought up by a friend of the family, Alice has difficulties making connections between actions and consequences, thinking that few things in her life have or will ever make sense. She marries Howard, her opposite, who is calm, stable and quiet, a dairy farmer. Alice finds that she is at her happiest living in the farm house with her husband and...more
Anna
Alice and Howard live on the last family run dairy farm in Prairie Center, WI. Though the cookie cutter subdivisions are fast encroaching, the couple is content in raising their daughters in peace. Only Alice feels the watchful, judgmental stares of the townspeople. The book begins from Alice’s point of view. She is self conscious, always questioning her ability, her patience, and her will to be a mother. About 50 pages in her best friend’ daughter drowns in her pond under Alice’s supervision. W...more
Cynthia Hernandez
Whether you love this book or not will depend upon a couple of things, one of them being whether you can tolerate being emotionally consumed by the plot and characters, even when the subject matter of each is heartwrenching. This is a painful book to read, but I give it five stars because I think the writer did a beautiful job of telling this painful story,and it happens to be a story that resonates with some of my worst fears. I suppose for me it fell into a category of book that lets me experi...more
Rahma Krambo
The most outstanding thing about this books is the 'voice'. It's written in first person, mostly from the female POV, but there's a well done section from the voice of her husband. As a writer, I know how difficult first person POV is, which makes me doubly appreciate Jane Hamilton's skill.

The characters are the most well developed I've read in a long time. No cardboard, run-of-the-mill people. The story is emotionally intense and can be hard to read for some people. It might have been depressi...more
Charity
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cynthia
I first read this when Emma was four years old, or thereabouts. It gave me nightmares, panic attics, the shakes. It is pretty much every mother's nightmare, every marriage's nightmare, every best friend's nightmare, all rolled into one.

Much later when Emma was old enough to swim (I think she was in high school and on the swim team at the time) I re-read this and was able to separate myself enough from the terror and the loss that it was a much better and less sleep-depriving read.

One of my favor...more
Aneesah
A map of the world is absolutely enthralling. Though many opinionated it a series of misfortune befalling Alice, I would depict it quite the opposite. Alice and Howard living in one of the last dairy farm with their two children did not predict or even prepare for how precarious safety turned their lives. Alice, having to deal with one despair was again snarled with another, which I believe helped her to get through the other. It is a story of how a family recovers and friendship sustains. Every...more
Kellie
I have read several reviews that portray this book as being very depressing, sad, solemn, etc. At first, I would have to agree with these readers. Towards the middle of the book, however, I began to see the creative style of this author. To me, this was not just a story to tell. The author put the reader inside the head of Howard and Alice. I put more value on the writing because Ms. Hamilton went beyond just a story to tell and gave us some depth into the mind of an accused child abuser and her...more
Barbara Mitchell
Several years ago I noticed a copy of Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World and stuffed it into my bulging bag to purchase. I recognized it as having been a big seller and remembered hearing of Hamilton as a wonderful literary writer. Then the book sat on my shelf until recently when I had time between review books to explore a little. I hadn't noticed it was also an Oprah pick or I might not have bought it to begin with. I haven't had much luck with her book club choices.

As I opened the cover a co...more
Sammy
I think Jane Hamilton tried to hard and too often to tie in the title of her book into the story itself. Or maybe it was just glaringly obvious for me since the book I was reading had penciled notes all over and various sentences and passages underlined. You wrote it in pencil! The least you could do is erase it!

I'm sorry... *deep breath*

I genuinely liked the book... most of it at least. There were a few spots where it felt like the characters became a little too introspective, which is irritati...more
Elizabeth
Sep 04, 2008 Elizabeth rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who want to wallow in grief and anger
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim
At the time I read this I had small kids and had a close friend with kids the same ages. I could see something like this happening so easily and it scared me, not only about losing a child, but losing a close friendship because of losing a child-- either yours or theirs. And losing that friend just when you need her the most!! OH-- the pain!! A double loss! This was a well-written engrossing book. Deeply moving. I love Jane Hamilton's style.
Michelle Lour
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joyce Jellison
horribly sappy - just the kind of shit Oprah would praise.
Ruth
I see in the other reviews that people found this book too depressing. That seems to be what people call most of the books and films I like. Haven't read this for years, but I saw the movie, which is also depressing, but slightly less so. Here's why I love the book so much: because it is about me. A person who doesn't really fit in; who is controlling and almost morbidly ethical. I think it's fair to say that this woman was somewhat out of her element in that town and then was pushed into a deep...more
Anna Engel
Hamilton is very wordy, but she knows what to do with language. She creatively describes the scenery and the people, and the internal dialogue can be quite good. You tell the difference between Alice-text and Howard-text quite easily and she has successfully created two fully developed main characters.

Unfortunately, the book is wall of text followed by wall of text. I thought initially that I was enjoying the book, but about halfway through, I lost interest. I figured I'd just finish it, though,...more
Dana
Nov 18, 2011 Dana rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who are not easily depressed
This book was very melancholy, with some parts that dragged and some parts that were beautifully poetic, but it was mostly just sad. Which is fine for me--I don't expect every novel to be happy-go-lucky. I was reeling when the baby drowned at the beginning of the novel and thought to myself, "well, it can't get any worse than this," but it sure enough did!

I had a hard time warming up to Alice (?), the main character, because she seemed, to borrow a line from "South Park," to be surrounded by a...more
Jason
i find it disturbing that, very often, the book i'm reading has the 'oprah's book club' designation boldly printed on the cover...
i am not now, nor have i ever been, a member of oprah's book club...
just to clear the air...

first impressions:
so far, i really appreciate the voice hamilton is developing for alice...her persona has a weight to it that lends a profundity to even the most prosiac statements...
she's like the people you meet that have been through a horrendous trauma; they have this odd...more
Marcia
I picked up A Map Of The World mainly due to the rave reviews posted on the cover and opening pages, several from prestigious media critics. I should have realized that this was also the case with The Memory Keeper's Daughter, another highly lauded book that I grew extremely depressed reading.

A Map Of The World is a story of a quick tempered, impetuous Alice Goodwin, mother of two girls, wife of a dedicated farmer, part time school nurses, who grows distracted for a few minutes one tragic mornin...more
Cherie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Evan
"A Map of the World" was among the most powerful books I read during the 1990s, so devestating, in fact, I've been unable to reread it despite wanting to.

It has an unconventional structure -- effectively, three chapters, each told from the POV of one of the three principals -- and one of the least likeable -- but utterly believable -- central characters in the American literary canon. Hamilton's writing is gorgeous and fluid, and she is unaplogetic for and about her characters: A woman, Alice;...more
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May have side affects 7 94 Jul 20, 2012 05:45PM  
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Jane Hamilton lives, works, and writes in an orchard farmhouse in Wisconsin. Her short stories have appeared in Harper's magazine. Her first novel, The Book of Ruth, won the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for best first novel and was a selection of the Oprah Book Club. Her second novel, A Map of the World, was an international bestseller.
More about Jane Hamilton...
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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. 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.” 15 likes
“I have since wondered if a person can know how deep a thing goes without getting outside of it, without taking it apart, without, in fact, ruining it.” 9 likes
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