Without a Map: Meredith Hall's Exploration of Family, Love, Loss, and Hope

I am continuing to explore memoir this fall as I add more titles to my Book Recommendation list for others. I highly recommend Without A Map by Meredith Hall. I can't remember when I first heard of the book. I think I read a review of it or saw it linked with another memoir I had read on Amazon. I then visited the U. of Idaho's bookstore and discovered Kim Barnes was using the memoir in her creative writing class. Barnes' body of work has inspired me since I first read Into the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country. I picked up a copy of Without a Map when I returned home.

Hall was a teenager in the mid-sixties in a small town in New Hampshire when her life changed drastically as she learned she was pregnant at the age of sixteen. She began a slow, painful journey that started with Hall being expelled from school and shunned by her community. She moved in with her father and he forced her to stay inside the house during the pregnancy. If guests came she had to stay in her room. She was drugged when she gave birth as not to see the baby that was taken away for adoption. She navigated her life after pregnancy without a map. She had no family support, no direction, and drifted through the next part of her life trying to come to grips with depression, despair, and the loss of the child she was forced to give up.

As Hall put her words to paper the events were written with a clear, honest voice. I felt her loneliness, grief, and loss of purpose as I read. I believe when a writer pens a memoir it can be another step toward healing and understanding of life events. I was haunted by her despair as she walked country to country in the Middle East with little money or food. I was moved to tears when she met with her father years after the time she lived with him during the pregnancy. I admired her when she enrolled in college as a forty-year-old mother that wanted to learn, and think, and write.

That theme of loss is woven through the book as she remembers how old the baby would be at a certain month, dreams about his life, and pours her love into two other children she raises. The contrast between her sadness in the first part of the book and her joy in simple pleasures of rural living later gives the reader hope and displays Hall's courage and determination. I hope you add this book to your " must read" list.

“Meredith Hall’s story of loss, shame, and betrayal is also a story of joy, reconnection, and survival; each memory takes us deep to the marrow of sorrow and celebration. A work of extraordinary beauty and grace.”

—Kim Barnes, author of In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country


  1. oooooooh this sounds so good.. I linked to your post today.

  2. Thanks for the link... I hope you enjoy the book. Amazing how this woman survived!


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