The Map of True Places (Paperback)

A Novel

By Brunonia Barry

William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780061624810, 432pp.

Publication Date: March 22, 2011

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (5/3/2010)
Hardcover (5/4/2010)
Paperback, Large Print (5/25/2010)
MP3 CD (5/1/2010)
Compact Disc (5/1/2010)
Paperback (2/1/2011)
Pre-Recorded Audio Player (5/1/2010)

List Price: 15.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

May 2010 Indie Next List

“Brunonia Barry has claimed Salem, Massachusetts, as her own locale--even using Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables--and the town couldn't ask for a better chronicler. Just as the city is a place of haunted mystery, so is the life of Zee Finch, who is forced to confront both past and present when caring for her ailing father. With characters that are rich, engaging, and sympathetic, Barry has created a world that perfectly expresses ordinary life.”
— Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
View the List


“Masterfully woven…The Map of True Places is a gripping quest for truth that kept me reading at the edge of my seat to the very last page.”
—Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice


Brunonia Barry, author of the beloved New York Times and international bestseller The Lace Reader is back with The Map of True Places, an emotionally resonant novel of tragedy, secrets, identity, and love. The moving and remarkable tale of a psychotherapist who discovers the strands of her own life in the death of a troubled patient, The Map of True Places is another glorious display of the unique storytelling prowess that inspired Toronto’s Globe and Mail to exclaim, “Brunonia Barry can write. Boy can she write.”

About the Author

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brunonia Barry lives in Salem with her husband and their beloved golden retriever, Byzantium.

Praise For The Map of True Places: A Novel

“Barry’s considerable latest delves into the long-lingering effects of a mother’s suicide. . . . This is a lovingly told story with many well-drawn characters, who sooner or later reconsider the courses charted by personal decisions and circumstance.”
Publishers Weekly

“Watching Zee… navigate the course of her own future is a journey …that readers will gladly make in the capable hands of tour guide Brunonia Barry.”

“Like her hit debut, The Lace Reader (2008), Barry’s second novel features an involving, intricately woven story and vivid descriptions of historic Salem.”

“Masterfully woven with a cast of unforgettable characters set loose in a world so specific and real, The Map of True Places is a gripping quest for truth that kept me reading at the edge of my seat to the very last page.”
— Lisa Genova, New York Times Bestselling author of Still Alice

“Brunonia Barry provides her fans with a profound complex relationship drama as the past impacts the present and the future. . . . Making the case that honesty is the best policy for the long run, Ms. Barry provides a thoughtful tale that will have readers reflecting on their lives.”

“The meditations on American history, assisted suicide, reincarnation and celestial navigation are informative and even endearing…the voice behind the plot turns is both likable and engaging.”
— Carolyn See, The Washington Post

“Barry has written a beautiful transcendental tale worth high praise. The Map of True Places has a celestial place in the universe.”

“A novice psychotherapist finds unsettling parallels between a patient’s suicide and her mother’s history in Barry’s second (The Lace Reader, 2008). . . . This woman-in-jeopardy thriller retooled with gothic elements--shifting identities, secrets and portents, a deserted cottage and a missing suicide note- manages to transcend.”
Kirkus Reviews starred review

“Zee’s a vulnerable, likable character, and the dramatic narrative brings her experience to life...readers will be perched on the edge of their seats while consuming this mesmerizing, suspenseful tale.”
Library Journal

“Gripping and emotionally taut, this is a novel brimming with both the messy and the lovely parts of life. A provocative examination of family, aging, and finding your true place in the world, The Map of True Places is sure to smoothly sail up the bestseller list.”

Conversation Starters from

  1. At the beginning of the novel, Brunonia Barry includes a quote from Herman Melville—"It is not down in any map; true places never are." Why do you think the author chose this quote to begin her story? Is the epigraph contradictory or complementary to the book's title?
  2. Three women play a nurturing role in Zee's life—her mother, Maureen; her boss, Liz, and her mother's friend, Ann. Describe Zee's relationship to all three and explore what she learned from each.
  3. At the beginning of The Map of True Places we are introduced to a psychological theory propounded by Zee's boss. According to Liz, "a daughter will always live out the unfulfilled dreams of the mother," especially if "those dreams were never expressed." Does this theory hold validity for you? Was Zee living out the unfulfilled dreams of her dead mother, Maureen? What dreams? Explain.
  4. Another of Mattei's old adages was that everybody lies, to other people, but most importantly to themselves. What lies did the characters in the book tell themselves? How did they shape their relationships to one another?
  5. Why did the death of Zee's patient, Lilly, upset her so deeply? Could Lilly have been saved? What about Zee's mother? Were Lilly and Maureen alike? Why did Zee blame herself for both tragedies? How can we learn to let go of regrets, to get beyond the "what ifs" in life? Did Zee eventually learn to do so?
  6. When she was a girl, Zee had a strong sense of herself, yet as a grown woman, she is unsure of who she is and what she wants from life. How do we lose that sense of certainty we often have as children? How did Zee lose it? Can we retain it, or does the process of maturing overshadow our youthful notions? How do the events of the story transform Zee? Does she find clarity by the novel's end?
  7. The loss of self is also evident as Zee's father, Finch, succumbs to Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's. What did caring for Finch offer the young woman? Did her father's decline offer clarity or just confuse her more in her struggle to understand herself?
  8. Talk about Zee's relationship to her father, Finch, and his significant other Melville. Was she closer to one than the other? What impact did Finch have on Zee's development? What about Melville?
  9. Do you agree with Melville's actions concerning the book of Yeats's poetry at the novel's end? What propelled him to do this? Did he ever have anything to be sorry for?
  10. How did Maureen's story The Once color Zee's perceptions of love? What impact did it have on how she viewed Hawke? Who did Zee think Maureen was writing about? Maureen never finished The Once. How do you think it should end?
  11. Celestial navigation is a theme interwoven throughout the book. What is the significance to the story? Did reading The Map of True Places make you interested in learning more about this lost art? Do you have a constant in your life that helps guide you to safety?
  12. Home is another touchstone of The Map of True Places. What is home? What impact does "home" and the idea of home have on our lives and who we are? In Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe wrote, "you can't go home again." Do you agree with this?
  13. The author skillfully interweaves literature and history into The Map of True Places. Choose any of these elements—such as Zee's full name, Hephzibah, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, the Friendship—and talk about its significance to the story and the characters.
  14. What did you take away from reading The Map of True Places? If you read Brunonia Barry's first novel, The Lace Reader, how do the works compare and relate to each other?