Thursday, April 3, 2008

31. Without a Map

By Meredith Hall
Rated 4 Stars
From Library

This is a beautifully written memoir and I could not help my heart from aching for what the author had to go through and how bravely she overcame such a traumatic event in her life.

But I was appalled by the way she was treated by her family and the community. I was a teenager in the 1950's, a full decade after Meredith and back then, as it always has been, girls got pregnant before they were married. I know, I was one of them myself. But the kind of treatment that she experienced was totally unknown to me. Maybe it happened here and I just ever knew about it. But mostly young people who found themselves in this kind of fix were supported by their families and most were rushed into an early marriage with the participating father of their child.

In Meredith's case she was only 16 while the father of the child was a senior at Boston U! This was against the law even back in the 1950's. It's just hard for me to believe that people can act the way they did. Perhaps her family were cold and unfeeling but surely the community couldn't have been that unfeeling. I am thinking that the author's memory of what happened were formed by how a sixteen year old girl interpreted events at the time and that we may have gotten a highly melodramatic version of what really happened. There must have been some decent people where she lived.

In any event, this was a well written, poignant book that made me think and feel. Isn't that what a good book is supposed to do?

FROM BOOK JACKET: "Meredith Hall grew up bonded to her insular New Hampshire community, comforted by the hallmarks of belonging: perfect attendance in Sunday school, classmates who seemed more like cousins, teachers who held her up as a model student, a mother who loved her unconditionally. Then, at sixteen, she became pregnant, and all at once those who had held her close and kept her safe turned their backs." "The same day in 1965 that Meredith was expelled from school, her mother told her "You can't stay here." Her father and stepmother reluctantly offered Meredith a cold sanctuary until she gave birth to the child she gave up for adoption. Then she was banned from her father's home forever. For the next decade she wandered, lost to society and to herself. Slowly, Meredith began stitching together a life that encircled her silenced and invisible grief." "When she was twenty-one years old, Meredith's lost son found her. She learned that he has grown up in gritty poverty with an abusive father - in her own father's hometown. Their reunion was tender and turbulent, a renaissance. Meredith's parents never asked for her forgiveness, yet as they aged, she offered them her love. Without a Map charts an extraordinary path in which loss and betrayal evolve into compassion, and compassion into wisdom."
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