The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Brunonia Barry‘s (check out her writing space) The Map of True Places (out on March 22 in paperback) is set in New England — Boston and Salem with a touch of Irish charm — much like her first book The Lace Reader (my review).  Zee Finch is a psycotherapist working for the prestigious practice of Dr. Liz Mattei and with patients who have bi-polar disorder.  Her patients’ symptoms remind her of her deceased mother in many ways, but Lilly Braedon, her problems, and her suicide take center stage for Zee.

“She carefully placed the bottle into the trash compactor, then flipped the switch, waiting for the pop and the smash.  The bag was almost full, so she removed it and took it out to the deck, walking all the way back down the stairs in her bare feet, placing the compacted bottle into the bottom of the garbage bin, not with the recyclables, as she would have preferred, but with the regular trash, so that there would be no evidence of the bottle.”  (page 21-2, hardcover)

Like the puzzle of the underground tunnels in The Lace Reader and the patterns in the lace, The Map of True Places presents a series of puzzles, mazes, and other patterns to follow as Zee struggles to put the pieces of her past back together so that she can deal with them one-on-one rather than burying them deep inside.  Unlike her professional persona that helps her patients discuss their internal turmoil and family problems, Zee continues to struggle with the death of her mother and the emotional absence of her father throughout her adolescence.  The broken wine bottle is just one significant image in Barry’s book in that it signifies how Zee deals with her problems and hides from confrontation as much as possible.

Barry’s prose is complex, full of imagery, and engaging.  She easily weaves her puzzles, leading readers through the narrative without revealing too much before it needs to be.  Zee is a broken character who tries to put a good face on her life even when she is not as sure about her choices as she should be.  Zee not only needs to deal with her past, but also determine if her present and future will include her fiance Michael, one of the state’s most eligible bachelors.  Overall, The Map of True Places is an engaging novel that navigates the past, present, and future simultaneously as Zee examines herself and her choices searching for her true path.

This is my 6th book for the 2011 Wish I’d Read That Challenge.