Sunday, March 22, 2015
The Mapmaker's Children
Sarah McCoy's upcoming novel, The Mapmaker's Children, is the story of Sarah Brown (daughter of abolitionist John Brown) and the part she played in the Underground Railroad during the antebellum period through the civil war, juxtaposed with the story of Eden Anderson who has come to live in New Charlestown, West Virginia--the very neighborhood Sarah Brown stayed in with the Hill family decades before.
The story has much to commend it. McCoy provides strong female characters with complex issues that will provide good fodder for book club discussion groups. The subjects of slavery, race relations, the Underground Railroad, abolition, the Harper's Ferry incident, and John Brown's tactics provide many historical and political angles to consider. Issues about relationships, the ability to have children, what makes "community" and what constitutes "family" offer readers and groups personal avenues into the story as well.
I did find it difficult to get engaged with the story for the first half of the book. (I suspect some readers with the same difficulty may have given up and not continued on.) For me, the issue was purely the format. McCoy employs the technique of switching between timelines for each "chapter." Since the segments, or chapters, are more like short vignettes rather than long chapters, the frequent shifts left me grasping for a good point to really dig in and get a foothold in the story.
That said, I am glad I stuck it out and kept reading because the story was, in the end, compelling. It was interesting to see how McCoy was able to tie the two time periods together. And I appreciated the way each was wrapped up in the end.
Thank you to Shelf Awareness for the Advance Reader Copy of The Mapmaker's Children which I received in exchange for this review.
From the Publisher . . .
Sarah Brown, the vibrant, talented daughter of abolitionist John Brown, is dynamically changed when she stumbles onto her father’s work on the Underground Railroad shortly after being told the shocking news that she won’t ever bear children. Realizing that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the movement’s leading mapmakers, hiding maps within her paintings while bigotry and hatred steer the country toward a bloody civil war.
Interwoven with Sarah’s adventure is the present-day story of Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, who moves to an old house in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. 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. Sarah and Eden’s connection bridges the past and present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.
About the Author . . .
SARAH McCOY is author of the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestseller The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee. Her first novel is The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.
Sarah’s work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso.
The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas.
Her novella “The Branch of Hazel,” featured in the anthology Grand Central (Penguin), releases July 1, 2014. Her third novel The Mapmaker’s Children releases from Crown May 5, 2015.