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.
Kathryn - 4.5 Star
I was really excited to read The Mapmaker’s Children as Sarah McCoy came with very high praise and I wasn’t disappointed by the thread of the story or the characters in the novel. Sarah McCoy gives us a bit of her research process at the end of the novel and I appreciated that she took the time to explain that some of the story was based on snippets of history while most of it came from the people she imagined the characters to be. I really liked that she included her path to the novel and it made me think more about the parts that were real and the parts imagined for my review.
To be quite truthful, it took me some time to get engrossed in the plot- this may be because I was reading it in small increments and I didn’t get a chance to read it with any speed until the end. I was interested in Sarah’s story more than Eden’s at the onset. The Underground Railroad is so powerful a system in history that it drew me in while Eden’s early chapters made her difficult to become attached to. I understood Eden’s mindset, her struggles to have a child were all encompassing and I knew that she wasn’t her true self but I found myself less empathetic with her than I would have liked. What made me come back to her chapters with interest was her interaction with Cleo’s charming little persona. I was also curious about her relationship with her husband and liked that McCoy gradually showed us the love in the marriage in a realistic manner given the stress they were both under.
Sarah’s journey, her relationships and her decisions were powerful and I was immersed in the time period completely. I wanted to make the links between the past and Eden’s present and was hoping that Sarah’s strength would trickle down through history to give Eden the boost she needed.
I really enjoyed Sarah McCoy’s attention to detail and her obvious research and passion for her characters. I can’t wait for her next novel, her writing is impeccable.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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