The Mapmaker’s Children
by Sarah McCoy
Why did you choose this book? the Underground Railroad aspect
When did you read this book? July 2015
Who should read this book? readers of Civil War era historical fiction
Source: publisher contest?
Here is a synopsis of The Mapmaker’s Children from Goodreads
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.
I liked this one, but not nearly as much as I expected to. The book arrived on my doorstep last March; I’m not sure where from, but suspect I entered a contest to win it. I wanted to read it because I had previously read The Baker’s Daughter by the same author and enjoyed it very much! Also, I knew this book talked of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement. The first pastor of the church I grew up in was murdered for his abolitionist views, and the house across the street from our church was known to be a station on the Underground Railroad, so I was particularly interested in this subject. (Funny story — when I was a kid growing up, I expected I could go down the basement of that house and see railroad tracks and crossing gates!)
This book is really two stories in different time periods. In one, set in current times, Eden is in a troubled marriage dealing with infertility. In the second story, Sarah, daughter of John Brown, the abolitionist, is also dealing with her inability to have children due to a previous illness. Both are good stories and are loosely connected, told in alternating points of view. I usually really enjoy this method of storytelling, but sadly, it just did not work for me this time. Every time I really started enjoying one story, I would get shifted in time to the other story. This made the whole thing feel very choppy and not very connected. While I knew there had to be a connection, I was left wondering exactly how the stories were related, and it was only near the very end that I really felt the connection between the two stories. Despite this, I did enjoy the book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about the Civil War era.
You can learn more about the Underground Railroad by listening to this podcast from Stuff You Missed In History Class. And if you are looking for another good historical novel dealing with then Underground Railroad, take a look at The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier.
My Rating: ★★★1/2 3-1/2 Stars