I don’t think I’ve ever read a book I felt as undecided about as this one. ‘The Map of Us’ is beautifully crafted and contains some of the most lovely, loveable characters I’ve read about. The story moves between Violet, who can’t walk or leave the house but still finds love and life, and her descendents, who each live through their own unique struggles and successes.
Almost every character (and there are a lot of them) is likeable, which I found a nice change. They each have their own quirks and sweetness, and their stories overlap but allow each of them to be their own protagonist. Nobody is a secondary character existing only to move somebody else’s story on. My personal favourite was Jack, a world expert in the colour blue, whose seemingly laissez-faire attitude to life masks a touching vulnerability and loneliness.
The huge cast of characters does cause some problems for the story – there simply aren’t enough pages to give every character the attention they deserve. This is a bit of a strange criticism, as it’s only a problem because of how wonderful Preston’s characterisation is. Because each character has such depth, it feels strange that some of them only get a few scenes in the whole book. I was particularly sad not to see more of Katherine, who battles an addiction to handbag shopping.
The choppy style of writing also makes this a tricky book to get into. Chapters are incredibly short and switch points of view a lot. At times, I felt like I wasn’t really reading a novel, but was reading somebody’s drafted ideas and character sketches. Every so often, a chapter simply lists a series of facts about one of the characters. The details included in these sections were always enjoyable, but they reminded me of the kind of fan theories you sometimes see published on tumblr or twitter, and sometimes seemed out of place in the actual story.
While reading ‘The Map of Us’, I felt sure that I wouldn’t end up giving it a high rating. It was confusing and unlike anything I’ve read before, and I felt the comparisons others have made to some of my favourite books like ‘Elinor Oliphant’ and ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ were unfair. But once I finished reading, I realised that this is one of those books that won’t leave me alone. I keep thinking about the characters and remembering details of the story that make me smile. I don’t often find books that stay with me the way this one did, and I think in the end it might be one of my new favourites.
Thank you to Netgalley and HarperImpulse for giving me this book free of charge in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.