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A Map of the World

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  71,726 ratings  ·  1,663 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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Lauri Baird Family Drama.. Real problems like real people. But slow
Family Drama.. Real problems like real people. But slow
Josephine Briggs It is a dark book. About families and family life. About wants, needs, dreams. Regular folks. About meeting and tolerating people who are different.

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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  71,726 ratings  ·  1,663 reviews

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Jul 15, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
May 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Alice and Howard Goodwin own the last dairy farm in Prairie Center, WI, and have two young daughters. On a particularly stressful summer morning, Alice is babysitting for her best friend's daughters who have come to play when one wanders off and falls into their pond and is later declared brain dead. Everyone is terribly devastated but Alice blames herself and falls into a deep depression, barely able to function or care for her family.

In the midst of this, police begin questioning Alice about
Rahma Krambo
Oct 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women-s-voices
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
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Cynthia Hernandez
May 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Shira Karp
Feb 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Oct 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Rachel M
Oct 20, 2011 rated it liked it
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
~Theresa Kennedy~
May 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful surprise for me. It was not at all what I was expecting and was really informative about the dynamics of remembrance and forgiveness. The book shows with the death of the small girl, how sudden tragedy can impact more than one family and how easy it is to become distracted, just long enough for a tragedy like this to unfold. The writing is entirely original and unique. This, along with The Book of Ruth, is one of Hamilton's masterpieces. Though the storyline is dark and sad, ...more
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Cynthia Paschen
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 17, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: bucket-list
I was under Jane Hamilton’s spell with the simple magic she worked in The Book of Ruth, but A Map of the World covers FAR too much territory for me to be charmed by her pretty prose. In fact, I think there might be three books here – one featuring the drowning accident and subsequent devasting guilt, another the marriage issues and love triangle with the curly-haired neighbor, and yet a third with the criminal investigation and trial (all of which is addressed on the jacket blurb…I should’ve kno ...more
Jun 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
May 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: c-the-okay
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
Barbara Mitchell
Dec 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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
~ Cheryl ~
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, re-read, 4-stars

This one gets shelved under “rubber-necking.”

It is a horribly tragic story, that you cannot tear your eyes away from. It seems almost cruel, in a way, for the author to make us consider these poor people; the accidental death of a small child, followed by a legal crisis which threatens to tear a family apart, and then have to watch them pick up the pieces and limp onward. But as much as you criticize other people for doing it, you find yourself rubber-necking anyway.

Still, it is quite a good bo
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
I suspect it may not survive the test of time that would call it literature, but it is a compelling read. It is told in the first person in three parts; first by Alice, then by her husband Howard, and then again by Alice. It is a story told from memory.
I once thought that memory was naturally coupled with understanding – with perspective. I have found that not to be the case. Despite the distance I can’t say now I have a clear sense of what happened last summer. I don’t know, either, if you can
Jul 08, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michelle Lour
Jan 14, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hated-it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julian Lees
Sep 15, 2016 rated it liked it
At times riveting A MAP OF THE WORLD could also be terribly long winded. I enjoyed Howard's voice more than Alice's. I also found the prison commentary a bit tedious. ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Let's be clear...

If you're looking for a riveting courtroom drama with lots of action that leaves you on the edge of your seat and leaves you guessing if the accused will be found guilty...this is not the book for you.

If, however, you're hungry for a well-written story about the affects of two major crises--the death of a small child and an accusation of a crime committed--on characters, on families, on relationships...this is the book for you!

Based on the synopsis of this book, one could easily
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Jane Hamilton is the author most recently of The Excellent Lombards and The Book of Ruth, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction, as well as A Map of the World, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and named one of the top ten books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, the Miami Herald, and People. Both The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World have been sele ...more

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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.” 19 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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