Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is Maddie Mortimer’s soul-stirring, lyrical debut.
The novel follows the lives of Lia, her husband Harry, and their daughter Iris after a medical diagnosis signals the upheaval of their small, domestic life. There is nothing grandiose about this novel except that which is made dazzling by mundanity and rawness—and, of course, Maddie Mortimer’s beautiful writing.
As it spreads throughout her body, Lia’s disease gains a narrative voice, a consciousness. We are introduced to this “itch of ink, think of thing,” impish and malevolent, as it entwines itself to Lia and all her memories.
Mortimer’s prose, evocative and sweeping, expertly guides readers through the timeline of Lia’s life, from her childhood at the vicarage and the arrival of a stranger to the precious and violent years that follow.
When we dip into the present, we get a better understanding of why things are the way they are.
At times, the shift is confusing. But I suppose that is the case when you are dying faster than everybody else.
Everything comes to you at once, every core moment smashing itself into the forefront of your memory—begging, I think, for some form of correction, for a chance to be rendered translucent by the light that so often eludes us.
When I was reading this book, I realized how few those moments were that shaped the winds of our lives and carried us toward the motion of our realities.
So it begins: the purging, the soft edges of a yellowing light, and the calling of the mother bird to her young. I so love the faithful gardener and the best friend with soft hands.
As the disease becomes more uncontained, it sinks its claws deeper and deeper, settling, perhaps rather comfortably, at the marrow of Lia’s bones. We meet a slew of phantasmagorical characters—The Gardener, Dove, Velvet, Yellow, and Fossil—all stand-ins for the loves that Lia carries inside her body.
Despite some reviews citing the macabre inclinations of Mortimer’s writing, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies shines as a poignant, intimate examination of life—how briefly the embers can flicker out and how desperately we cling to and defend it.
Nothing I have written down today could completely capture the beauty of this novel. But I have made it somewhat of a personal mission to tell people about this book. Read it. Please.