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The Map of True Places ~ Brunonia Barry

October 17, 2010

Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
416 pages
ISBN: 9780061624780


Mystic sea ports.



Civil Liberties.

Honestly, what is there not to love about Salem, MA?

For Zee Finch, there’s more to add under the “not” column. A fading father, a memory of a mother gone, a harbor town that simply holds too many reminders of a less than stellar youth.

So, it is with heavy baggage and much regret that she finds herself dislodged from far away Boston and set on a rip current back to her homeland. It is the ghost of family past coupled with a much more recent case gone horribly wrong that upends her beautiful engagement and career in the big city where her star is rising as an up and coming clinical psychotherapist.

Parkinson’s has settled in with her father, resulting in the disintegration of his longtime relationship with dear friend and lover, Melville. Distraught and dragged down by the sudden need for her character change from distant daughter to constant caregiver, Zee’s entire world is upended and sent straight back to a fun-house version of her youth. She is forced to come face to face with the psychology and mythology of her past, the town’s past and the much more recent past of her troubled client.

The silver lining to the dark storm cloud, is a mysterious man working on one of the ships in the port. Sunny and carefree in the way only old world sailors can be, Hawk is the picture of everything Zee has ever needed, capable of teaching her not only to read the stars but also to follow her heart. Of course, every storm cloud’s silver lining eventually sees another rainy day and not all parties are what they initially appear to be.

Barry’s book came to me this past summer and it’s taken me entirely too long to read it. I’m kicking myself, now, for leaving it for so long. Of course, sometimes books have a way of waiting for the best time to be read. October, Salem or Atlanta, tends to be a great time for curling up with a good book. Of course, adding the mystery of an old sea yarn, never hurt a good Autumn-in-New-England read either.(Try turning on some Barefoot Truth or Great Big Sea while you’re reading and I promise you won’t be disappointed.)

Growing up very close to Salem, hoping that every Neo-Crucible or Deliverance Dane anecdote will capture the town’s true awesomeness, I’m always disappointed.

Until now.

Barry gets it and here’s why: She tells stories like a New Englander. She writes about town drama and the colors of houses  on the wharf, not, as southerners and midwesterners do, for poetic effect, but because these things have significance to ten generations looking back and it’s just a matter of fact. A north shore boatman retells a story because people have to know that “this happened” or because they should know “what went on here” as opposed to someone chatting about meandering minutia, whiling away of the hours in a hot southern sun, under parasols, drinking sweet tea.

In True Places, Barry tells a sea story and a T-story, weaving past and present with a classic Yankee attention to “only the good stuff”. I’m about halfway into her first book, The Lace Reader, and can attest to the same being said through both works. This storyteller gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up from a fairly-hard to please northerner.

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