Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Synopsis From Back Cover:

A respected Boston psychotherapist, Zee Finch has come a long way from a motherless childhood spent stealing boats.  Bu the actions of a patient throw Zee into emotional chaos and taker her back to places she'd left behind.

What starts as a brief visit home to Salem begins a larger journey.  Suddenly having to care for her ailing father after his long time companion moves out, Zee must come to terms with a strained and awkward relationship that has always been marked by half-truths and haunted by the untimely death of her mother.  Overwhelmed by her new role, and uncertain about her future, Zee destroys the existing map of her life and begins a new journey, one that will take her not only into her future but into her past as well.

After I had read The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry's first novel, I had already fallen in love with the way she can weave a story.  So when I was given the chance to read The Map of True Places, which is her second novel, I jumped for joy.  Even with that sense of anticipation, I went into this read without overly high expectations.  Oftentimes when I love a debut novel, the follow up effort doesn't always live up to the hype I built up in my head.  Thankfully, with this book, I felt the author surpassed her previous work.

I found myself getting lost in the life of Zee, just not her story.  Zee, short for Hepzibah (one of my favorite names by the way), is a deeply damaged young woman who is forced to deal with feelings that she thought were locked in the past.  The catalyst is the suicide of one of her patients, a patient that she had gotten too wrapped up in.  Throughout the therapy process Zee had started to associate her patients story with that of her mother, who had committed suicide while Zee was still a child.  Zee had actually been the one to discover her mother on the floor, writhing in pain after she had taken strychnine. 

Her mother had been a troubled soul, in love with her husband but never truly loved by him.  Her husband, Finch preferred the company of men, sadly this was before the day that such things could be taken for granted and not hidden away as much as possible.  He started an affair with a slightly younger man, Melville, who would go on to be his long time partner after the death of his wife.  She was a writer of fairy tales, but towards the end she started to blur the lines between tale and reality.

Her mother's schizophrenia and suicide is what compelled Zee to become a therapist and the suicide of her patient compels Zee to go back home to Salem  and against her will, deal with her past.  With her father slowly dying and losing his mind to Parkinson's disease, Zee slowly realizes that she is going to have to map out a new life to follow.  It's a life that will bring her love and pain.  A life that will heal the past and allow her to finally move on with the future.

Obviously there is much more to the story, but I'm not sure that I would be able to tell you anything else without giving too much away.  What I will tell you though is that Zee's journey is one that I think a lot of us with damaged childhoods can relate to.  No matter how much you think you have put it behind you, it will creep back up when you least suspect it.  That is when you will discover that no matter what the past is going to be there, that you need to deal with it, and then you can finally move on.  But once you do finally deal with it, your life is set on a new course with a brand new map waiting for you to explore.

It's a beautifully, lyrical book that was pure pleasure to read.  The author's style and choice of words had me captivated from the beginning, and I actually found this one easier to read than The Lace Reader.  The narrative was more straight forward, though it had an almost fairy tale feel to it.  It helps that Zee's mother was a writer of fairy tales so the feel doesn't seem forced or contrived.  Rather I'm not sure any other style would have allowed her to tell the character's stories as beautifully. 

I think I'm going to end this now, before I start using even more descriptive language to say what I've already said.  Simply put, I loved this one and think everyone who enjoys a well crafted tale needs to discover Brunonia Barry's Salem for themselves.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please take the time and visit the tour page for more reviews of this one.  I promise you that they are not as long winded and rambling as this one was.

If you are in the area, Brunonia Barry is going to be making several appearances in the MA area.

Wednesday, April 27th, 7:00 PM: Book club discussion; MORSE LIBRARY; Natick, MA

Friday-Saturday, April 29th-April 30th: NEWBURYPORT LITERARY FESTIVAL; Newburyport, MA

Thursday, May 5th, Time TBD: Women’s Lunch Place Boston, BOSTON, MA

Saturday, June 4th, 1:00 PM: Reading & signing; BAYSWATER BOOKS; Center Harbor, NH

She'll also be on the Book Club Girl on Air Show on Wednesday, April 20th, 7 pm EST: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/book-club-girl/2011/04/20/brunonia-barry-discusses-the-map-of-true-places


Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I liked The Lace Reader so I'm going to have to read this one as well. It sounds like a compelling book. I think Ms. Barry has a unique and interesting writing style.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

One that I have wanted to read, but it has not happened yet. Great review...thanks

bermudaonion said...

Wow, this must be exceptional to exceed your expectations! You've made me want to read it right now!

Yvette said...

What a wonderful review, Ryan. I am adding this author and book to my TBR Mountain of Delights. :-)

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

I love the title of the book, but this sounds much heavier then the books I usually read; however, I might have to give one of her books a try based on your review.

Anonymous said...

It's unusual for a sophomore effort to surpass a debut as well-received as The Lace Reader. This is a must read!

Staci said...

I was able to grab a copy of her first book from a library sale. This one sounds fantastic and I'm glad that she soared above her debut book!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear this book was even better than her first - that's unusual, and a real treat when it happens.

Thanks for being on the tour.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Great review, Ryan. I still have not read both of these. Your description is by far the best I've read so far. Your passion comes through.

jenclair said...

I loved them both, too!