Hamilton, Jane "A Map of the World" - 1994
"Happiness is an Illusion, Pain is Reality" - Alice Goodwin, the main character of this novel, receives this as her fortune cookie when visiting a Chinese restaurant with her husband. She doesn't think this sounds like a reality but is reminded of it shortly afterwards when her life changes so much, nothing will ever be the same again.
This story has so many themes, it is gripping from the first page, gets more and more interesting, you feel for every single person. A very sad story, a tragic story, one about loss and betrayal, death, desperation, parenthood, partnership, marriage, endless, endless topics wrapped into one big story, told in a fascinating way.
From the back cover:
"One unremarkable June morning, Alice Goodwin is, as usual, trying to keep in check both her temper and her tendency to blame herself for her family's shortcomings. When the Goodwins took over the last dairy farm in the small Midwestern town of Prairie Center, they envisioned their home a self-made paradise. But these days, as Alice is all too aware, her elder daughter Emma is prone to inexplicable fits of rage, her husband Howard distrusts her maternal competence, and Prairie Center's tight-knit suburban community shows no signs of warming to 'those hippies who think they can run a farm.'
A loner by nature, Alice is torn between a yearning for solitude coupled with a deep need to be at the center of a perfect family. On this particular day, Emma has started the morning with a violent tantrum, her little sister Claire is eating pennies, and it is Alice's turn to watch her neighbor's two small girls as well as her own. She absentmindedly steals a minute alone that quickly becomes ten: time enough for a devastating accident to occur. Her neighbor's daughter Lizzy drowns in the farm's pond, and Alice - whose own volatility and unmasked directness keep her on the outskirts of acceptance - becomes the perfect scapegoat. At the same time, a seemingly trivial incident from Alice's past resurfaces and takes on gigantic proportions, leading the Goodwins far from Lizzy's death into a maze of guilt and doubt culminating in a harrowing court trial and the family's shattering downfall."
I definitely want to read Laura Hamilton's second book "The Book of Ruth", don't know why it took me so long to read this one.