In Molly Caro May’s debut memoir, “The Map of Enough: One Woman’s Search for Place,” May and her fiancé, Chris, move to her family’s land in Montana for a one-year stay. Surrounded by the enigmatic wilderness, the young couple decides to build a traditional yurt on their own.
With their friends launching into their careers, settling down, and beginning their lives, Molly and Chris decide to leave New York for a life in Montana. For Molly, who experienced an itinerant upbringing, a move to Montana is exactly what she needs: “A subterranean discontent had always gnawed at me. Not discontent with the world, but discontent with myself.”
As Molly and Chris begin the yurt-building process, they love and fear the desolation and uncertainty of the wilderness. May’s exceptional use of imagery effortlessly captures the atmosphere of Montana countryside, making it familiar yet mysterious: “I rolled out of bed and went to see about the sea of green grass surrounding us. It vibrated. Grasshoppers launched themselves. I had never seen so many at once, arcing high, clicking legs together with all the faith that, somewhere, a safe landing awaited them.”
Molly embraces her spiritual connection to the land and her reconnection to nonconformity. Spending most of her life traveling from one region to the next, Molly’s sovereignty stirs memories of her childhood, memories defining her venturesome temperament: “Once, in Mexico City, I asked (my mother) whether we are real nomads. … No, we aren’t nomads, she says as we sit on our red brick porch. … This isn’t the answer I want. If we weren’t nomads, I’m not sure what we are. So that’s when I convince my brothers to run away with me. … I like being defiant, I also like being adventurers. But soon, my youngest brother is limping from some undisclosed injury and the air feels cold and we see the rats scurrying down below, in one united move, we turn around and go home.”
For Molly, the move is more than just breaking away from mundane life; it is an exploratory process of finding purpose and connection with her inner self. May’s clean writing and excellent use of sensory detail produces a tangible effect of the land. The reader can smell the earth; feel the cold, damp snow; hear twigs snapping and birds chirping. The landscape comes alive on every page.
May’s thought-provoking journey will challenge the reader to question their own lives. Do we recognize what is important? Do we take time to cherish what is truly significant? Her transcendentalist approach reassures us that disappointment is all too easily weighted by what we don’t have. When we are content with everything we do have, we are comfortable with who we are. The difficulty is to accept the challenge.
As May says, “What part of me would emerge here? I greeted the scene with the kind of intention we reserve for something we know might make an impact on us. You say hello and pause.”