The fact that she’s sold her new novel, “A Map of the World,” to filmmakers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, and has been compared with John Grisham, doesn’t impress author Jane Hamilton.
“I’m sure I can take that and get any kind of mortgage from the bank,” says Hamilton from her home in Wisconsin. “I haven’t read John Grisham, but I suppose they compare us because we both have court scenes in our books….If I were writing about Chinese women and their daughters, they’d compare me to Amy Tan.”
Instead, “A Map of the World,” recently published by Doubleday, is the haunting story of Alice and Howard Goodwin, a young farming couple in Wisconsin whose life unravels when a neighbor’s daughter drowns in their pond, and Alice, also the school nurse, is subsequently accused of child abuse.
“I didn’t want to grapple with a topic that was so trendy,” says Hamilton, who has two children of her own and lives in the small town of Rochester. But she became obsessed with the topic and ultimately gave in to her impulses. “It seemed like something that could happen to any of us.”
Hamilton was also concerned that “the subject matter could so easily be ‘the Monday movie of the week,’ and I abhor the Monday movie of the week,” so she avoided watching any programs that deal with the law, police or courts.
Not that her expectations are much higher for the way Hollywood will treat her novel, which she rewrote four times over a five-year period.
“It’s out of my hands,” she says, regarding the likelihood that Kennedy will give the book an upbeat twist. “[The sale of the novel] provides a writing life for me. I don’t have to teach or be a checkout girl at Kmart. Movies are disposable. They are like tobacco. You chew them, then spit them out. But I’m glad it’s Kathleen Kennedy. She’ll do a better job than most, but I’m not really interested in the movie.”
Well, just a tiny bit. Asked who she’d like to see cast in the film, Hamilton immediately mentions Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Theresa, Alice Goodwin’s best friend.
“We went to high school together,” Hamilton said. “She’s a wonderful actress.”