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March 28, 2014

Book Notes - Molly Caro May "The Map of Enough"

The Map of Enough

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Molly Caro May lyrically explores themes of identity and our connection to place in her impressive and thought provoking memoir The Map of Enough.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"In an impressive debut memoir, a self-proclaimed "Woman of the World" chronicles her journey to find a home. May joins the ranks of Gretel Ehrlich and Annie Proulx, celebrants of sagebrush, big skies, and journeys of self-discovery."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Molly Caro May's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, The Map of Enough:


Much of my time living in a yurt with my fiancé on 107-acres in Montana involved only the sounds of nature—rain on canvas, owls hooting, the crunch of my boots on snow, wind whistling, the silence of stars. But once we installed a solar panel, music came alive again. Not for long, though. It completely drowned out the wild around us, and we weren't ready for that change. Because music is music and it's important, it eventually crept back in. Sometimes I wrote to it. Sometimes I drove on lonely roads and sang. Sometimes the memory of a lyric was enough.

Below is the mood compilation for my book.


"Speaking Confidentially" by The Cowboy Junkies

The Cowboy Junkies came into my life when I was an eighteen-year-old riding a bus to the airport in Indiana. That was back in the handheld CD player days. With every relocation, they have made the leap with me. When the tall grasses of Montana became my home, they anchored me to where I had come from and where I might go in the future. Plus, so much of memoir is about speaking confidentially to your reader.


"Anonanimal" by Andrew Bird

For me, this song evokes The Land—the Doug Fir forest pulsing on a warm afternoon, the urgent step-step of an elk herd running, the way our dog Bru somersaults on snow, the cadence of us humans walking up and down the steep hill multiple times a day. All of Andrew Bird's songs explore serious emotional range. After listening to the beat of this one, I feel as if I've touched every corner of my own heart. I like that.


"'Cept You and Me Babe" by Greg Brown

I remember the isolation we felt when our friends Jen and Dane visited us in Montana. Suddenly, they had transformed from our college idealist friends into these serious adults glued to their iPhones. Chris and I didn't have smart phones at that point. I mean, we were living in a yurt. We stood around in disbelief. We felt we'd lost an integral part of our friendship with them. Now we can talk about it with them or anyone, but I still believe there is a loss. That said, I admit to now being part of the current. This song captures how Chris and I created dreams together. That, somehow, we would do things differently, that we would pay attention. In retrospect, it was righteous as hell. I hope we've found a balance.


"Cosmic Love" by Florence + The Machine

The stars, the moon. Need I say more? Living in a yurt made me aware of my smallness. I stood beneath a wide bowl sky, peed on snow in the dark, wondered where the animals were sleeping, and warmed myself against the glow of our canvas. There is no self-apology in this song. Rage. Want. Movement. Awe. This might actually be the theme song of my book.


"Hit The Ground Running" by Calexico

I flee to the highway five times in the book, maybe twenty-five time in real life. Does everyone do this? I would lean on my seatbelt, drive three exits and try to dredge up the sensation of going somewhere. Even though building a yurt on 107 acres with your man sounds like a paradise, it often wasn't. More than that, I had the family mantra "what's next?" pulsing in my blood. This song captures the desperation of feeling like nothing, including your own self, is enough. I still have to go through the motions to understand that there is no such thing as a partial escape.


"Wilderland" by Anais Mitchell

I don't always listen to music when I write, but this song, and this album Young Man in America, was critical for getting me into the mood of my book. Thank you, Anais.


"Where The Mountains Meet The Sky (Nanga Parbat)" by Gustavo Santaollala

Got to have an instrumental song in here. This one is for Chris—reminds me of his connection to what it means to be of the mountains, which he is but I am not. To be at the yurt site is to literally feel on top of the world, surrounded by five mountain ranges and the many animal tracks going this way and that in the snow. But I'm a sucker for summer, and so the yodeling on this song speaks summer for me.


"Forgiveness" by Patty Griffin

Hands down one of my all-time favorite songs: snakes, airplanes, thin phone line. You can draw any sort of meaning from it. There's a moment in the book where Chris calls me out on not being able to forgive anyone because I cannot forgive myself. We still talk about it. I still work at it.


"Queremoz Paz" by Gotan Project

When I imagined another place I wanted to be, this was it. Somewhere urban. Somewhere where the language is not my mother tongue. Somewhere with intimate and messy community. Not Argentina and tango specifically, but somewhere other than where I was. To be, as I write, in my element, which is "out of my element." As a girl, I paged through atlases and wondered about all the lives I could lead. This seduction of maps doesn't go away.


"This Tornado Loves You" by Neko Case

Neko Case manages to both be a complete devotee of animals and a woman who detonates the image of nature being quaint. She gives weather its own feelings. If I had to live with a soundtrack playing constantly in my ear, her songs would be it. Consider her voice playing in the background of my book. I also wrote to her music. Every woman is part tornado, I think. That was my continued revelation—we are not separate from nature, and in many ways, that is a great comfort.


Molly Caro May and The Map of Enough links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


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