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A Map of the World


A Map of the World Cover

ISBN13: 9780385720106
ISBN10: 0385720106
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. In the opening pages of the novel, Alice says about her situation, "Now, in my more charitable moods, I wonder if our hardworking community members punished us for something as intangible as whimsy. We would not have felt eccentric in a northern city, but in Prairie Center we were perhaps outside the bounds of the collective imagination." (p. 4) How does the idea of alienation figure into the novel? Why do Dan and Theresa belong to Prairie Center? Does Howard belong? Feeling that she doesn't belong, could Alice have done anything to make herself less vulnerable to public censure?

2. Compare the different ways the characters grieve: Are there parallels in the husbandwife relationships within the couples--Alice and Howard, Theresa and Dan--and how each spouse expresses, or fails to express, his or her own grief? Do the characters' respective genders play a role in the way they deal with grief? What role does grief play in Howard's relationship with Theresa?

3. What is the function of Howard's narration? Does his perspective change your feelings about Alice and what happens to her? Is it clear why he doubts her?

4. Does Alice's sense of her own inadequacy contribute to how she is viewed by the people of Prairie Center? Does it contribute to Howard's feelings towards her?

5. At the outset of the novel, Alice says, "I had always suspected that Howard was able to slip into a phone booth, shed his rubber overalls right down to a blue body suit, and then take off into the sky, scooping up the children with one strong arm.... He has always been capable." (p. 9) What are some of Howard and Alice's respective strengths and weaknesses? Is either one stronger than the other in any way?

6. At the point of the novel when Alice is arrested, she is still completely overwhelmed and incapacitated by Lizzy's death and her role in it. How do the accusations against Alice and her time in prison change her and help her to deal with what happened to Lizzy?

7. What is revealed about Alice through her interaction with other prisoners? Does her sense of belonging shift while in prison? What new perspectives does she gain?

8. While in the jail hospital, Alice reflects on her marriage, "Lying in the hospital bed I thought to myself that my passion for Howard had soon been replaced by something that was stronger than respect, or habit, or maybe even need.... "I wasn't certain the group of feelings wouldn't cancel each other out, if any of them could possibly be powerful enough to carry me along by his side, shoulder to shoulder." (p. 298) What binds Alice and Howard? Do the events of the novel change the essence of those ties?

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Jeane, April 2, 2008 (view all comments by Jeane)
This quietly haunting story is about Alice, Howard, and their two daughters. They've recently moved to a small midwestern town to follow Howard's dream of being a dairy farmer. Unfortunately, Alice soon alienates the local people against her. Right as the story unfolds, her best friend and neighbors' daughter drowns in her backyard pond. Then she is accused of sexually abusing a child at the school where she works as a nurse. On the one hand dealing with profound guilt over a child's death, and on the other facing a courtroom full of people who think she's committed the most sordid act against another child, Alice struggles to hold onto her sanity and keep her family together while facing the ostracism of the entire town. This book can be depressing and heart-wrenching, or a startling clear look at how one small mistake can trigger other events and escalate into an unforseen catastrophe.
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Jennifer Kulman, June 18, 2007 (view all comments by Jennifer Kulman)
I was really looking forward to this book based on the summary. It could have been an excellent book, but it was too drawn out and characters were too unlikeable. I really lost interest mid-way through and had to force myself to continue. I think I would have liked it had been more fast paced, and less of what the characters were thinking about. Pretty boring.
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Jena, November 6, 2006 (view all comments by Jena)
This book had its moments. Maybe it would have had more, but I stopped reading 2/3 of the way through. I couldn't muster enough concern about Alice or her husband or their children to make the last third of the book worthwhile. I don't even care whether Alice did it or not.
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Product Details

Hamilton, Jane
Anchor Books
New York :
Farm life
Middle west
Legal stories
Domestic fiction
Dairy farms.
General Fiction
Family saga
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Oprah's Book Club (Paperback)
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.05x5.19x.84 in. .64 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

A Map of the World Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$3.50 In Stock
Product details 400 pages Anchor Books - English 9780385720106 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Hamilton's chillingly accurate prose keeps her fine novel buoyant. She is superb in her observation of the natural world and in her examination of psychological nuance."
"Review" by , "Jane Hamilton has removed all doubts that she belongs among the major writers of our time."
"Review" by , "Stunning prose and unforgettable characters...an enthralling tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control."
"Review" by , "It takes a writer of rare power and discipline to carry off an achievement like A Map of the World. Hamilton proves here that she is one of the best."
"Review" by , "Ms. Hamilton has done a nimble job of showing us how precarious the illusion of safety and security really is."
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