Carol Lynn Pearson’s recent novel, The Love Map: Saving Your Relationship and Incidentally Saving the World, is a kind of Dante’s Inferno meets Dickens’ Christmas Carol. A young, married protagonist, Joanna, faces marriage difficulties. “Something is on fire, something is going up in flames and it’s us, it’s our marriage,” Joanna says to her husband before leaving for a work trip. She travels alone on a literal (then figurative) journey deeper into herself, faced with memories of what was and shadows of what could be.
An inciting incident puts Joanna into a kind of trance or vision. This invites a new character into the story: a “Higher Self,” also called a “kind teacher,” “the Self that remembers,” and a “gust of God” presence whom Joanna calls “Sylvia.” Sylvia acts like Beatrice in Dante’s work or the spirits in Dickens’ carol. She is Joanna’s guide through four realms. As Joanna travels through these kingdoms, she pursues an answer to a question: “What is love, real love? If I find it, how can I keep it?”
Though the novel is cheerful and humorous with a plucky pace, Sylvia’s deep insights are the real heart of the story. A few passages to give you a taste:
- “Like God, love is huge, which makes sense because God is love.” (33)
- “Cowards contribute nothing and we owe everything to those who dare.” (34)
- “This is a one-woman show, and you are the woman.” (38)
- “Listen carefully. You have been carrying within you every day of your life a map that is clear and verifiable.” (38)
- “Everything in your life is either your business or another person’s business or God’s business. And only when you stay in your own business do you have power.” (43-44)
- “Yes, God was there too. Love was there and God is love and where else would God be?” (73)
- “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” (75)
- “And now you have the choice to be right or to be happy and to grow” (103).
The Love Map is a short but mighty novel with a lovely message, no matter in which of the four kingdoms a reader might most often find herself.
“Has marriage always been this hard?” Joanna asks (88). Sylvia, in response, laughs. “There are different kinds of hard,” she says. A lighthearted yet deep demonstration of how to shed smaller selves and instead to fight our sabotaging egos (with compassion and wisdom, no matter how vast our own museum collection of resentments), The Love Map is a short but mighty novel with a lovely message, no matter in which of the four kingdoms a reader might most often find herself. This is inspirational fiction. Joanna serves as an everywoman, inviting individuals to consider for themselves: “What would Love do now?” (112). ⋑