Title: The Map of True Places
Author: Brunonia Barry
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher, audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Alyssa Bresnahan
First line: In the years when her middle name was Trouble, Zee had a habit of stealing boats.
Zee is working as a therapist with her friend Mattei and planning her wedding to Michael, when a patient’s suicide hurls her into a past she thought she had left behind. There are striking parallels between her patient, Lily, and Maureen, Zee’s mother, who committed suicide when Zee was barely a teenager. Both women suffered from bipolar disorder, both had a history of reckless behavior. Zee’s guilt over Lily’s death brings forward all the memories of the time before Maureen died and her life afterward – and she is forced to realize that she isn’t done dealing with that period of her life.
She returns home to Salem to heal, and also to take care of her father, Finch, who is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, and has cast out his long-time partner, Melville, for reasons Zee doesn’t understand. She finds her father in a much more advanced phase of the disease than she had expected, and becomes his caregiver, all the while still dealing with the aftermath of Lily’s death, the deterioration of her relationship with Michael, and the man, Hawk, whose connection to Lily goes deeper than Zee suspects.
Brunonia Barry returns to the town of Salem for her newest title, The Map of True Places, even including the witch Ann Chase, one of the minor characters in her first novel, The Lace Reader. I love the way the town is as much a character in the story as the people are. Salem is rich with history – not just because of the infamous witch trials, but because it is located in the cradle of the American Revolution and was a center for colonial shipping and commerce. Barry also gives us the story of Purveyance Brown, the wife of a ship’s captain, and her forbidden lover, intricately weaving it into the story of the three modern women: Zee, Maureen, and Lily.
There are secrets in this book, secrets that Barry slowly unfolds: some to Zee, some to the reader alone. This gives this contemporary novel a decidedly gothic feel, with a sense of menace and mystery pervading the story. I loved listening to this on audio, masterfully read by Alyssa Bresnahan, waiting as each secret was revealed, not minding the ones I had already figured out, and shocked by the ones I hadn’t. With The Map of True Places, Brunonia has proved that her first novel’s brilliance didn’t happen by chance, but because of her immense talent. I would have rated this book five stars except for a few scenes where the story was bogged down by information that we had already been given in previous chapters – a problem I never noticed in The Lace Reader. However, this was not enough of a problem to keep me from loving The Map of True Places.
(Disclosure: I received an ARC of The Map of True Places from the publisher for the purpose of review. Many of the links on my site are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on any of these links and subsequently purchase anything, I will receive a small percentage in commission.)