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When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.
Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.
Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Underground Railroad has always fascinated me – especially the people who conceived of it and ran each station and provided the ways and means to get to the next – so I couldn’t wait to pick up Sarah McCoy’s The Mapmaker’s Children, a dual-timeline story featuring two strong women who find out that when life serves up lemons, well, you make lemonade…
Sarah Brown is the daughter of abolitionist John Brown, who figures out her family’s “business” and decides to use her artistic skills to further its purpose. She’s smart and strong, yet naive in her idealism. You know how people watching horror movies always have a “don’t open that door!” moment? Well, I had plenty of face-palm moments – i.e. whenever Sarah’s ideals overcame her common sense. (No, I don’t have a lot of patience for lack of common sense, but that’s on me.)
Eden has just moved to New Charlestown with her husband, thinking that this little town is the perfect place to get away from it all – including her latest loss. I disliked her at first “sight”. She’s rude, mean, and generally not very nice. It’s not surprising that her marriage is in trouble.
Finding a doll head in her cellar starts Eden on the path to finding Sarah’s story, and that, along with neighbor kid “detective” Cleo and roadside-pup Cricket, gets Eden back on the path to humanity.
I liked Sarah’s story, even when I thought she could’ve done things better. The history, backdrop, and societal norms of that time were so limiting for women, yet Sarah managed to work with her lemons and build a life that was meaningful. Eden redeemed my opinion of her by the end of The Mapmaker’s Children, and I credit that to Cleo, whose irrepressible good cheer is contagious.
I read The Mapmaker’s Children in spurts, mostly because I really didn’t like Eden and wanted to skip her chapters. I stuck it out for Cleo, though, and am glad I did. Add this to your summer pile for the days where you just want a chapter or two at a time.
drey’s rating: Pick it up!
Have you read The Mapmaker’s Children? What did you think? And if you haven’t, read on to win your own copy!
Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours, I have one copy of The Mapmaker’s Children for you. This one’s open to US residents only; no PO Boxes please. To enter, fill out the form below before June 25th. Good luck!