A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

Hmmmm...I'm having a difficult time collecting my thoughts on this one. It was the kind of read that left you all squinty-eyed, with your head cocked to the side going "Ehhhhh." Not sure if I can put my finger on it exactly but something in this book was off and well- I'm disappointed in it.

It was a beautiful premise. A family struggling in the wake of an untimely death, parents broken, a sister left neglected and forgotten and how art helps them heal. Nate Bradley was an angry teenager, given to senseless acts of vandalism and unkindness to his family. Once he was a delightful little boy, the hero of all his little sister's adventures. When Nate dies in a car accident, caused by his own reckless driving his family is torn between loving the sweet boy they lost, and mourning the opportunity to ever understand the angry boy their son had become.

His younger sister Cora is entering her first year of high school at the same school where Nate would have been starting his senior year. To the students and faculty Cora is the odd, sad little sister of a trouble-maker who died a senseless death for his irrational behavior. She is understandably self-conscious, since her peers expect her to either break into a million pieces or follow in her brother's footsteps and be a disruptive presence in the school. For escape, from school, from emotionally dead parents Cora sketches scenes from countries on her wall map, places she'd like to visit, exotic far away lands that offer a much different life for her. When Cora befriends Damien, Nate's partner in crime as well as the one that walked away from the car accident unharmed, he shows her Nate's secret- a special workshop where he and Nate made fascinating artwork out of an eclectic mix of scavenged media. The studio starts to answer many questions for Cora about who her brother had become and what he wanted from life. An unfinished work inspires Cora to use her own artistic abilities to map the places she and Nate were happiest and through the project she finds her own peace about her brother's death.

I wanted to read this book so badly! It's a wonderful concept- the healing power of art. The map of her world, the description of her sketches, the scenes from the many countries she visited in her imagination. Unfortunately I could never quite join her. The writing was overly descriptive to the point of distracting and the relationship between Damian and Cora was bizarre and unrealistic. The vocabulary and emotional expression was so over the top poetic that it felt like they were reading from a movie script. I myself have been known to abuse the comma, I'm not a writer so it's ok, but Sandell beat her story to death with really long strings of imagery in which she wanted you to feel SO much, instead you got lost wadding through all that potpourri. That's it, it's like she took a whole bunch of flowers and mushed them around on the page- if that makes any sense. I also can't even begin to understand what she was trying to convey with Damian's character. I think she meant him to come across self-conscious and shy and his relationship with Cora was meant to help them both deal with Nate's death but instead I just wonder if any second he was going to turn psycho.

Argh. I wanted to love this book.

Penny for your thoughts?

4 thoughts?:

Taschima Cullen June 29, 2009 at 9:19 PM  

Hmmm the story does sound rather enchanting, but if the writer tried so much that it ended damaging the book I don't want to even try it :s

21 June 30, 2009 at 8:19 AM  

Hola, Jane! You should head on over to my blog and CLAIM YOUR AWARD! I was gonna say "prize" but that makes it sound like I'm one those carnival people and that I have a free book waiting for you. Sorry, no such luck (for either of us), but awards are just as nice! =^D
Hey, you linked me! Thanks, Jane! ^_^

Nymeth July 1, 2009 at 3:05 PM  

It really is a great premise. Too bad it let you down :( I hate it when I really want to love a book but don't.

PS: I found my way here because I saw your comment at Book Nut saying you love Pratchett, and then I get here and you have Arthur Rackman art on your header too! I think I'm going to love your blog.

pirate penguin August 6, 2009 at 4:13 PM  

I actually liked the book. I was only slightly pissed off with Damian...he beat himself up way too much to the point where I was like, STFU! *slap*. :/

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