It is a kind of a coming-of-age story – when your age is in your thirties and you should have gone through this soul search at a much younger age. The heroine, Zee, is a Boston psychotherapist, who had to grow up too fast to come of age as a gir. Her life gets turned inside out and upside down when a patient’s crisis and her ill father’s need for her care throws her into a place that she doesn’t want to, but must revisit.
There are quite a few turns and twists in the plotline, so I don’t want to give away anything, other than to tell you that Zee’s story starts out with a bizarre and wild past that morphs into a rigidly controlled present. The rigidity is paralleled by her father’s illness, her return to Salem (some delicious witchiness that Salem tourism conjures up) and her desire for freedom expresses in Yeats, Hawthorne, and star (and love) searching. As far as the plot went, unfortunately I kind of saw everything coming, as the author didn’t (purposefully or not) adequately hide important clues and information to the deep and dark past along the way. I would have preferred to be more surprised. But while the plotline itself may not be perfect, Barry’s understanding of her characters and how she unfolds their emotional lives to the reader is what makes this book move.
At middle age, we are all coming to terms with the fact that our parents are also aging and that they will need our help to transition from old age to old, old age, and from old, old age to death. In this book, Zee is much younger than middle age. Her father’s demise is very young (and a bit too close in age to our middle age for comfort), resulting in quite a few moments that had me recoiling from my fears of my old, old age.
Barry takes the reader deep into the mind of Zee, her father, and all the players that make this book a compelling read. I could not put it down – which for me, with no extra time on my hands, tells you that it held me from beginning to end.
The Map of True Places is almost about real places, but more, it is about Zee heading out on an emotional and physical journey to find her place without hiding from an emotionally crippled past. Worth the read.
Feel free to share your own thoughts about finding your own place in life and Harper Collins may have some additional copies I can send your way.