In both The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton has created women who are far from perfect -- their flaws are made painfully apparent — but they discover in themselves great reserves of strength. Although the physical landscape they inhabit (an important factor in both novels) is very mild, these women seem to be surrounded by destructive forces. Their families and communities threaten their peaceful existences, and sometimes even their lives. Although both women may seem initially to be at the mercy of these destructive forces, there is something in them that never quite gives in.
In these first two novels by Jane Hamilton, one finds the birth and development of a strong and unique voice in fiction. The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World are linked by many characters, themes, and ideas, but each book has its own distinct personality. Despite the stylistic differences between these two novels, what remains consistent is Hamilton's ability to convey the emotional lives of her characters with clarity and resonance. Ruth and Alice's pain is palpable, and their joys are our rewards as well.
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