SERVANTS OF THE MAP
Travelers, naturalists, nurses, botanists, surveyors—a multitude of seekers and healers populate this luminous new collection of two novellas and four stories by National Book Award–winner Barrett (Ship Fever; The Voyage of the Narwhal). Tracking her wandering protagonists from the banks of the Schuylkill in Pennsylvania in 1810 to the Himalayas in the 1860s and on to New York's Finger Lakes in the late 20th century, Barrett elegantly portrays the transitory nature of life and love. Selected for Best American Short Stories (2001) and The O. Henry Awards (2001), the title novella follows young British surveyor Max Vigne on a long, arduous mapping expedition as he writes letters home to a cherished wife that become a chronicle of the distance that is growing between them. Partings and reunions of loved ones recur in these stories. In "Theories of Rain," a young orphan studying the mysteries of precipitation and passion yearns for the brother she was separated from as a child; in the novella "The Cure," a nurse at a village in the Adirondacks finds the brother she lost years ago and yet struggles to communicate with him. In the contemporary "The Forest," Barrett creates a lovely comedy of the inevitable gap of perspectives between an illustrious Polish scientist who has grown nostalgic with age and a young woman who yearns to break free of the past. The mark of Barrett's artistry is her ability to illuminate loneliness and isolation, but also to capture the improbably forged bonds between her disparate characters. Familiar figures appear and reappear in more than one story, and many readers will be able to make connections between these tales and Barrett's earlier works. Yet each is rich and independent and beautiful and should draw Barrett many new admirers. Author tour.(Feb. 1)
Forecast:An elegant sepia-toned jacket and Barrett's rapidly growing reputation as one of the finest writers at work today will assure a substantial audience for this radiant collection.
Release date: 02/01/2002