Servants of the Map: Stories
"Luminous....Each [story] is rich and independent and beautiful and should draw Barrett many new admirers."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Ranging across two centuries, and from the western Himalaya to an Adirondack village, these wonderfully imagined stories and novellas travel the territories of yearning and awakening, of loss and unexpected discovery. A mapper of the highest mountain peaks realizes his true obsession. A young woman afire with scientific curiosity must come to terms with a romantic fantasy. Brothers and sisters, torn apart at an early age, are beset by dreams of reunion. Throughout, Barrett's most characteristic theme—the happenings in that borderland between science and desire—unfolds in the diverse lives of unforgettable human beings. Although each richly layered tale stands independently, readers of Ship Fever (National Book Award winner) and Barrett's extraordinary novel The Voyage of the Narwhal, will discover subtle links both among these new stories and to characters in the earlier works.
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.