The Map of True Places
by Brunonia Barry
Brunonia Barry’s previous book, The Lace Reader, was one of the first books I reviewed on Fashionista Piranha, and I loved it. I have been looking forward to reading her new novel.
When one of her patients commits suicide, therapist Zee Finch is haunted by her failure to ‘save’ the woman, a bipolar housewife named Lilly. The death reminds Zee of her mother’s own death; tired and muddled with turbulent emotions, she decides to return to her family’s home in Salem to visit her father. When she arrives, Zee is shocked to find her father has kicked his partner out of the house. He is deteriorating rapidly, thanks to years of suffering from Parkinson’s disease, so Zee decides the best thing to do is to leave her patients for a while and care for him instead. One mystery after another greets Zee as she settles back into life in Salem. Did Lilly really kill herself, or was she murdered by a jealous lover? Why did her father break up with Melville, his decades-long partner? And of course, why did Zee’s mother kill herself all those years before?
There are many different plot threads spinning out in every direction. Answers for the questions raised above must be found, and as Zee works on one task a dozen other questions and tangents are exposed. At some point, it spins a little out of control. I don’t think I can address much specifically without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say that the family secrets and hidden identities run rampant for 350+ pages before suddenly beginning to tie up a little too neatly. A romance seems to have been added rather hastily, and never really meshes with the main narrative.
What Barry really excels at is creating atmosphere, and she does a fantastic job here. Her Salem is brimming with life and energy. Yet the mood can just as easily slide into something mysterious and brooding, as fog rolls in from the ocean. Whenever Zee leaves her father’s house and ventures into Salem, I get excited because I know the next few pages will be great. Fun, memorable characters inhabit the streets and shops, and we have a clear sketch of their appearance and personality with only a few sentences.
The minor characters pop even more because Zee herself is…well…dull. She’s extremely wishy-washy, unable to make any decisions. Again and again she tells us she doesn’t know she wants or how to feel or what to do. It does get old.
Even though Zee annoyed me, I really really liked this book. I was completely absorbed in it while I was reading. I didn’t want to stop until I reached the final page. If you enjoyed The Lace Reader, don’t miss Brunonia Barry’s newest novel!
4.5 out of 5 stars