MrsK's Seasoned Reader Picks

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

The Mapmaker's Children
ISBN: 9780385348904
Publisher's Synopsis:
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.

MrsK's Review:
When choosing a book to review (or is it when the book chooses you), the one aspect of a story line that always gets me hopeful is when there is a historical event that is dear to my heart. Any connection with the Underground Railroad promises a poignant discovery. This novel is a matchmaker between two women and their discoveries of life. Sarah is John Brown's daughter. In a moment when a slave can not read the map to freedom, Sarah draws the map with pictorial notations instead of words. Her maps will lead many to freedom, but will they lead Sarah into the same danger that her father has just been arrested for? 
"Sarah had been on her deathbed and had risen a new person...
She was not about to let that moment draw near again without having fully lived first...
without having found her new purpose." 

Pictographs, useful to the cause of bringing freedom to the passengers, yet keeping any outsiders from discovering the designated route of the road to freedom. In October of 1859 the raiders of Harpers Ferry did not survive to see the liberating freedom for slaves. Yet, their spilled blood did cry for action against brutal oppression. John Brown and his sons were men making history. His wife Mary and their daughters, Sarah, Annie, and Ellen, would continue living life with a steadfastness of mercy and grace.
"I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received on my trial.
Considering all the circumstances, it has been more generous than I expected."
John Brown 12/1/1859

"Slavery was an abomination...." the thousands that made their way to John Brown's execution would prove truth to that statement. Yet, it would banish the girls into New Charlestown within the care of George and Priscilla Hill. Although Sarah's time with the Hill's will keep her spirit "marching on," it will be amidst chaos that causes grief for many. Only loving support and courage of the Hill's and their son Freddie will make Sarah's journey moving forward. Just as many runaways found courage and kindness within the station houses, Sarah will find her inner calling during the time spent with the Hill's, an undeniable bond which will endure a life time of "rebirths." 
"Ye know not what shall be on the morrow.
One life is but a vapour that appeareth for a time,
and the gone."

 Sarah knew that her father's mission didn't end with his death, in stead it would be the promise of a better life for many. Although there many "terrible deeds," she found strength in knowing that "people were capable of more love and benevolence than they realized." Sarah trusted that an "individual heart" could reign over the "collective public voice." Giving "rise as unstoppable as a river after a storm."

With the departure from the Hill's home, the Brown's return to North Elba will begin unfolding new avenues for Sarah. With a series of letters between Freddie and Sarah, you will discover the many challenges, heartaches, strengths, and joys in which a life molded by faith endures and overcomes.    
Then there is Eden's discovery of doll's head in the root cellar of her newly purchased "old house" in New Charlestown, WV. Although Eden is a woman with much character strength, her latest miscarriage has created such agony she no longer feels hope or love. Her journey will be blessed with a neighboring girl (Cleo), an unexpected gift (Cricket), the return of her brother (Denny), and the patient love of her husband (Jack). So many facets within Eden's life will become illuminated once she begins unraveling the mystery of the doll's head, an old button, and an antique key. Could her house become a registered landmark on Apple Hill? Can she learn to love beyond her losses? Will she discover a secret trait to the doll's head in which history could once again tell the story about the Underground Railroad? Did the "doll massacre" have something to do with the her doll's head? What decisions must Eden make in order to realize her passion behind the words:
"Come home to New Charlestown."

Two journeys, two women, both in which you will never forget their stories,

 With historical accuracy, 
connections with great literary pieces (Dickens; Alcott; and Thoreau),
and the promise of one life touching another,
this is a novel worth reading. 
Meet 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.
"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Penguin Random House

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