Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: the map of true places

Author: Brunonia Barry
Format: galley proof -406 pages
Characters: Zee, Finch, Melville, Hawk
Subject: Dealing with mental illness & Parkinson's disease
Setting: Salem Massachusetts
Genre: literary fiction
Source: LibraryThing.com Early Review program
Challenge: ARC Completed

This could have been a really depressing book.  After all the subjects are suicide, bi-polar disorder, Parkinson's disease, betrayal, and depression.  Instead of leaving the reader reaching for the Prozac bottle however, the story ends leaving the reader uplifted.

It is a great story about a story (is it true or is it a fairy tale?), and about a young woman's search for herself, her mother, and her future.  Zee Finch is a pyschologist whose patient Lilly (a young woman close to her age) jumps off a bridge when she should have been at her appointment with Zee.  Since Lilly reminds Zee of her own mother (the original story-teller) whose bi-polar disease caused her to commit suicide when Zee was 13, our heroine is doubly bummed.  Is she mixing up the two women in her own mind?  In addition, her fiance is pressuring her to make plans for their scheduled wedding and Zee seems unable to make any decisions.  She's not even sure she wants to get married.

She instead chooses to go home to see her father, whom everyone calls "Finch," a noted Hawthorne scholar who lives directly across the street from Hawthorne's house in Salem.  Finch suffers from Parkinson's disease, and it becomes immediately evident to Zee that his condition has dramatically worsened since she last saw him.  Her patients back in Boston are shifted to others in the practice while she deals with the mountain of issues associated with caring for an aging and ill parent who daily becomes more demented.  The rest of the story that follows is touching and to tell it here would ruin an excellent read.  The short chapters, the crisp prose, the outstanding dialogue,  the building suspense surrounding several characters, all lend themselves to keeping the reader awake long past bedtime to find out how it ends.

I almost wish this book didn't have an epilogue.  Although the story's ending is quite well-done, the epilogue seems to have been written to answer all the questions a non-dreamy reader might have about "what happened after that?"  Instead of leaving us with a delightful suspicion and willing to use our own imagination to write several different scenarios of what might have been, the author seems intent upon tying up every last string so everything can be shoved neatly into one secure package.  Still in all, it is a book worth savoring. 

If you're looking for a good vacation fiction read with some romance, some suspense, and a well written story, you won't go wrong with this one.

Thanks to the LibraryThing.com Early Review program for letting me have this one to review.


  1. Oh, the extraneous epilogue! I hate them!!

    Great review.

  2. I must read this. Dave has Parkinson's and I'm interested in anything about a PD person, even fictional.


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