Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

School children learn about John Brown and the raid on Harper's Ferry in history class. Who he was, who his family was, and the whole of the life that he sacrificed for a cause greater than himself is rarely covered. And yet he left behind family, including his daughter Sarah, who loved him and believed in the abolitionist movement too. In The Mapmaker's Children, Sarah McCoy imagines the life and purpose of Sarah Brown, beginning just before her father's capture and on into her adult life, weaving this historical story with a modern day tale of a woman facing her own personal fight and living in a historic house in New Charlestown, WV.

After Sarah Brown overhears the devastating news that she will never be able to bear children, she devotes herself to the cause that is so dear to her father: abolition and the Underground Railroad. Sarah is an artist and she finds her purpose in drawing maps to aid escaped slaves on their flight to freedom. She is wholeheartedly invested in her role when her father is captured. Traveling to New Charlestown with her mother and sister to be near her father when he is executed, the small family stays with Brown's friends, the Hills. Although the Hills might believe in different methods of fighting slavery, they are kind and congenial people with whom Sarah forms a close bond that will last forever, through her father's hanging, her continued schooling, the Civil War, and beyond.

In present day New Charlestown, Eden and her husband Jack have moved into an historic home, hoping that moving from the bustle of the city to a small community will help them finally overcome the infertility that is destroying them. Their marriage is collapsing under the strain of disappointment, anger, and helplessness. When Eden finds the strangely painted porcelain head of a doll in the root cellar of their home, she hopes that either the doll or getting the house placed on the registry of historic homes so she can sell it will bring in enough money for her to flee her marriage and all of the unhappiness tied up in their lack of a baby. What she doesn't expect is to become invested in the people and the community and to uncover long lost information about her house and a friend.

Each of the story lines is interesting and well drawn. Initially, the ties between Sarah and Eden seem to be primarily based on their infertility and the way each, in turn, comes to an acceptance of her life but those ties broaden and expand as the women's stories move forward. Each of the main characters is realistic and flawed, clinging to her notion of the future and how to get there, but in the end, each of them learns to let go allowing them to grow in far different ways than they ever expected. The connection between the past (in Sarah) and the present (in Eden) is not a hard one to figure out but McCoy does a good job making those connections actually come together. In the beginning, the stories seem so very disparate that the reader does wonder how the story lines can ever come to compliment each other beyond the most tenuous of associations, that they do is to McCoy's credit. The historical detail is beautifully done and although not much is known about the real Sarah Brown, this story easily feels like it could be true and faithful to what little we do know about her. This is an enjoyable read that not only fleshes out American history, but connects it to the present and reminds us that the past very much underlays everything. It reminds us that the paths we travel might not be the ones we would have chosen but that we can never go wrong by investing in our hearts, our friends, and our communities.

For more information about Sarah McCoy and the book, take a look at her website, like her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, or check out the book's Goodreads page. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I love this: "we can never go wrong by investing in our hearts, our friends, and our communities." It's a lesson I've been relearning in my own life recently.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one!

  2. I am really sad I did not get this one. I really want to read it!


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