Title: The Map of True Places
Author: Brunonia Barry
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
In her second novel, Brunonia Barry takes the reader back to the atmospheric setting of Salem, Massachusetts, but this time it’s to tell the story of Zee Finch. Zee is a therapist working in Boston, still haunted by the ghosts of her mother’s suicide. When one of her patients, Lilly Braedon, who had bipolar disorder just like Zee’s mother, kills herself, it dredges up old memories and Zee is forced to come to terms with her past.
Though I’d heard great things about Brunonia Barry’s first novel, The Lace Reader, it took me awhile to get around to reading it. I vowed not to make that mistake again with The Map of True Places and made it a point to start it almost as soon as it arrived on my doorstep.
The Map of True Places features the character of Zee Finch, who is a real enigma for the reader. She’s very broken by her past and has been unable to accept her mother’s suicide, even though it happened many years ago. She hasn’t really been able to move on past that – even her career choice was affected by her mother’s death. However, she’s also incredibly appealing – the reader wants, above all, for Zee to find some semblance of healing, to be able to move on and really live life on her own terms.
I also appreciated Zee’s devotion to her father, Finch. Their story was touching and very moving. In the book, he is in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease, and Zee is determined to help him in any way she can, even when he doesn’t seem to want it. It’s sweet, but it also says a lot about Zee as a character. Though she doesn’t appear to be the strongest person because of her issues with the past, the way she tackles her father’s problems show that, underneath, she really is a strong, capable woman.
This book moves a bit more slowly than Barry’s debut novel. That’s not a criticism by any means; The Map of True Places is a much more introspective novel. It’s quiet and thoughtful. The driving force behind it is the skillfully drawn characters, rather than advancement of the plot. The reader is taken in by these incredible personalities and really gets to know them over the course of the novel. It’s a lyrical, emotionally gripping book, and I’m glad I read it sooner rather than later.