BOOK REVIEW: Mapping Eden
by Carol Japha
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Mapping Eden traces a young girl’s quest to make sense of the world and the event that transforms it–the death of her mother.
From Mapping Eden: “No one said out loud why my mother was gone and all the other mothers were there. It could have been a secret like the things my father knew, things out of books. But it seemed like the other kind of secret, the kind you were punished for telling.”
When her dreamy, musical mother falls desperately ill, six-year-old Julia is terrified but forbidden to speak of it. Her mother will get better, her father insists, if only she is left in peace. The dire prediction Julia hears in the schoolyard is, he declares, an ignorant lie.
As her mother slips away, Julia’s sweet memories no longer seem real. Afterward, in the ancient maps she studies with her father, Julia searches for clues to a landscape forever altered. Who was her mother, and what does it mean to have had—and to have lost—her? Who is she, and how is she connected to her mother?
Mapping Eden is an illuminating journey into the experience of grief and loss, and the devastating impact of the death of a parent in childhood. Set in Chicago, it’s a delicately wrought story of one child that sheds light on the experience of childhood bereavement, the lasting impact of children’s grief, and the search of a motherless daughter for her identity as a woman.
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I finished this book a few weeks ago and have had a hard time getting myself to sit down and write the review for it. Whenever that happens, there’s some kind of conflict going on for me. In this case, I was left feeling unsatisfied in some way, yet the story itself is beautiful.
Mapping Eden is about a six-year-old girl, Julia, whose mom dies. Julia doesn’t really understand what’s going on. She’s kind of left out of the conversation and even the mourning, yet the loss affects her deeply. We watch as Julia tries to make sense of everything while her dad moves on and the memories of her mother begin to fade.
The writing style is just not one that I prefer, so I wrestled with whether to rate this book on my personal preference (⭐⭐⭐) or the quality of the book itself (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐). I decided to split the difference and go with ⭐⭐⭐⭐.
If you enjoy literary fiction and a poetic writing style, you may enjoy this book. It just wasn’t really for me.