Map of the Heart
By Susan Wiggs
Widowed by an unspeakable tragedy, Camille Palmer has made her peace with the past and settled into the quiet safety of life with her teenage daughter Julie in a sleepy coastal town. Then the arrival of a mysterious package breaks open the door to her family’s secret past. In uncovering a hidden history, Camille has no idea that she’s embarking on an adventure that will utterly transform her.
Camille, Julie, and Camille’s father return to the French town of his youth, sparking unexpected memories — recollections that will lead them back to the dark days of the Second World War. And it is in the stunning Provençal countryside that they will uncover their family’s surprising history.
While Provence offers answers about the past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, she meets a former naval officer who stirs a passion deep within her — a feeling that she thought she’d never experience again.
Questions for Discussion
- Map of the Heart moves between two stories, one set in 1940’s France and the other in present-day America. How do the journeys of the characters in these dual narratives complement each other?
- What do you think was the root of Julie’s insecurities? Do you think Camille’s approach to helping Julie was right? How would you handle this sort of situation?
- Lisette’s narrative portrays occupied France in the last years of World War II. Has reading this novel given you a new perspective of the sacrifices soldiers and civilians made during times of war?
- Like Finn in the novel, people really make professions out of finding lost soldiers from the wars. What do you think is the importance of these operations?
- Since her husband’s death, Camille’s grief has held her back from enjoying her passions and taking new chances. What do you think was keeping Camille from healing after so many years?
- Although both Camille and Finn are coping with sorrows from their pasts, their initial attraction for each other is powerful. What do you think draws Finn and Camille to each other? What do they each need in the other?
- Have you ever been the victim of bullying, like Julie and Henry? How would you respond in this situation?
- Do you think Henry was right to keep the truth of the Palmer family history from Camille, or should he have been more open with her? What would you have done?
- Think about the character of Didier Palomar. He tells Lisette he is trying to save his town from the war, even if it means making sacrifices. Do you think Didier really believed he was doing the right thing?
- Henry, Camille, and Julie each have a different connection to France. How has each character’s perspective of the country, and themselves, changed throughout the novel?
- Have you ever discovered a mystery about your ancestry? What do you wish you could know about your family’s past?