Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review: The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

The Map of True Places The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Brunonia Barry, the New York Times bestselling author of The Lace Reader, offers an emotionally compelling novel about finding your true place in the world.
Zee Finch has come a long way from a motherless childhood spent stealing boats—a talent that earned her the nickname Trouble. She's now a respected psychotherapist working with the world-famous Dr. Liz Mattei. She's also about to marry one of Boston's most eligible bachelors. But the suicide of Zee's patient Lilly Braedon throws Zee into emotional chaos and takes her back to places she though she'd left behind.  

What starts as a brief visit home to Salem after Lilly's funeral becomes the beginning of a larger journey for Zee. Her father, Finch, long ago diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, has been hiding how sick he really is. His longtime companion, Melville, has moved out, and it now falls to Zee to help her father through this difficult time. Their relationship, marked by half-truths and the untimely death of her mother, is strained and awkward.
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. Like the sailors of old Salem who navigated by looking at the stars, Zee has to learn to find her way through uncharted waters to the place she will ultimately call home.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I'd liked her first novel, The Lace Reader, I thought it had a number of flaws that made it difficult for me to love it. I was concerned those same flaws would be found in this second novel but I thought the premise sounded really interesting. I am so glad that I read it. I really enjoyed it.

It is a very different novel from The Lace Reader. I felt that The Map of True Place was much more thoughtful and introspective. It wasn't as focused on action but rather on the emotion and growth of the characters. That aspect of this novel really appealed to me. I definitely felt much more connected with the characters in this novel. They drove the story rather than being driven by the events of the book.

One of my favorite things about this novel is how well Barry handled the physical and mental illness aspects that were pivotal to the storyline. I thought that those aspects were so well done. The characters were well written and their experiences portrayed in a very real, raw and honest way. In the end, that sense of truth is what made me feel so strongly for the characters and their journey.

I thought that the writing was very good. Brunonia Barry is a really good writer - there are moments of such elegance in this novel. There is a touch of the mystical in her story but the practical is at the forefront. Her ability to bring a place to life, Salem in particular, is really wonderful. I loved the literary and historical references that are peppered throughout the novel. They really gave the book a nice, warm feel.

The theme of finding yourself at a crossroads and needing to revisit your life really resonated with me and I felt that I got a lot more out of this book than just a good story. It made me think. It made me ponder my own life.

All in all, I truly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it.

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