Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs
Published August 2017 by William Morrow
Purchased a physical copy and listened to audiobook from Library
One of the things I enjoy doing during my Mom time is going Barnes and Noble with nothing really in particular to look for, but to just browse. One night while browsing I came across a few novels by Susan Wiggs. I remember plopping down on the floor and I began reading the synopsis on the backs. I read and read and was amazed how intriguing her books sounded. That night I went home with two titles Map of the Heart and Family Tree.
Susan Wiggs—an author “who paints the details of human relationships with the finesse of a master” (Jodi Picoult)—returns with a deeply emotional and atmospheric story of love and family, war and secrets that moves back and forth across time, from the present day to World War II France
An accomplished photographer, widow, and mother, Camille Palmer is content with the blessings she’s enjoyed. When her ageing father asks her to go with him to his native France, she has no idea that shes embarking on an adventure that will shake her complacency and utterly transform her.
Returning to the place of his youth sparks unexpected memories—recollections that will lead Camille, her father, and her daughter, Julie, who has accompanied them, back to the dark, terrifying days of the Second World War, where they will uncover their family’s surprising history.
While Provence offers answers about her family’s past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, Camille meets a handsome American historian who stirs a passion deep within her she thought she’d never experience again.
Where to start with my thoughts on this book? I would love to just write that you should read it and leave it at that but I won’t do that. Seriously though, go to your library or local book shop and bring it home with you!
In a world where we love photographing our every move to post on Instagram or Snapchat for the world to see, I honestly can’t remember the last novel I read with a character whose passion is photography. Camille restores old photos which sounds fantastic. Those tucked away rolls that you find and think there is absolutely no way it could be saved! That’s what she does. In a hurry to go check on her daughter Julie, she drops everything she’s doing which ruins the roll of film sent to her to save by Finn.
Finn lives in France and teaches but also assists families with reconnecting with their loved ones who served in the military. The roll of film he sent to Camille could’ve possibly been his one chance at seeing a photo of his father who passed away before Finn was born. He’s obviously ticked off when he learns that Camille has ruined the roll but once he learns why, he calms down and the two eventually start falling for each other.
There is just so much to love about this story. Motherhood. Camille is a widow and has been very understandably protective of her daughter Julie. Julie is a teenager and is in her awkward years. To make things even worse, she is being bullied by a group of popular girls. I felt like Susan Wiggs did a fantastic job of capturing both sides of Camille and Julie’s mother/daughter relationship. You get a chance to see where both are coming from.
Camille’s father was born and raised in France and is very insistent that they travel back. Her father admits to Julie that he was bullied as a boy and both he, and Julie really think this vacation will be the perfect get away from everything that’s been going on. You really see Camille’s internal struggle of not wanting to teach her daughter to run from things when they get tough but also realizing how she has been keeping her in this environment and how sometimes you have to go to learn.
While in France Camille and the family come across boxes left behind by her grandmother which starts a whole other storyline. They begin questioning her father’s dna, wondering if the father he grew up knowing was actually his father–who was a very hated man. They slowly put the pieces together of his mother’s true love whom she never really got to love. It was beautiful and it’s in France that Camille and Finn’s relationship begins to bloom although Camille still tries to guard her heart.
I loved this book so much. I was left completely satisfied with the outcome for all the characters. We see Julie make friends and live her best life in France. Camille’s father reconnects with the love of his life while in France and decides not to spend another moment without him. And Camille, who has been playing it safe with a protective wall around her heart starts to break down those barriers and allow herself to love and be loved again.
This is such a beautiful story of family, the secrets we keep and love. I loved it so much and can’t recommend it enough.