Thursday, May 22, 2008

A MAP OF THE WORLD by Jane Hamilton

Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World is about Alice, a school nurse whose life is derailed by a few minutes of inattention. Lizzy, a friend's child, drowns while in Alice's care. That tragic incident somehow catapults her into being falsely accused of child molestation, so that she is incarcerated for months. In the meantime, her dairy farmer husband tries to orchestrate her defense and find a way to raise the money for her exorbitant bail. This book is a reminder that we've all made careless mistakes, but most of us were lucky enough to avoid dire results. Oddly enough, Alice's jail time is in some ways her redemption, as her circumstances draw her out of a major funk brought on by guilt and shame. It also provides a means for her to atone for Lizzy's death. One of my favorite parts of the book is the middle section, told from Alice's husband's point of view, rather than hers. He is a much more sympathetic character than Alice, who is flighty and impetuous. The book really hits its stride, though, when the long-awaited trial finally takes place. The accuser, a 6-year-old who testifies from his mother's lap, and the accused get their day in court, and this section alone makes me want to see the movie.

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