Several weeks ago I entered a raffle for a free copy of Sarah McCoy‘s newest novel, The Mapmaker’s Children. I’d never heard of McCoy, but the premise of her novel looked interesting. It implied the intersecting of a Civil War-era Abolitionist woman and a modern-day woman who moves to a small town with a significant historical background. I knew I had to have a copy of this book. Whether I won the raffle or made a trek to the bookstore, I knew I would be reading this book soon.
A few weeks later I received a package in the mail. I’ve been fortunate enough to win free books from publishers in the past, so I knew by the feel what must be inside; but what I found complete made my day! Wrapped in festive tissue paper and confetti ribbon, and accompanied by the most thoughtful hand-written note from the author, was a copy of The Mapmaker’s Children. I was already excited to read the book, but the thought and care taken with the wrapping made me ecstatic. It felt like my birthday or early Christmas! I opened the cover and silently said a prayer, “Please don’t disappoint…please don’t disappoint.” You see, too often I’ve been excited to read a book and then closed the last page with no small measure of disappointment. Thankfully, that was NOT the case this time. The Mapmaker’s Children was nothing short of absolutely beautiful, both in story and in writing.
The story alternates between two main characters: Civil War-era Sarah Brown and 21st Century Eden Anderson. Sarah Brown is the daughter of the infamous John Brown, a high-profile abolitionist who led — and was later hanged — for leading the slave uprising at Harper’s Ferry in the days leading up to the Civil War. In the 21st Century, Eden Anderson is a woman trying to reconcile her “personal failure” at her inability to conceive a child. She moves into a Civil War-era home and finds artifacts tied directly to the time period of Sarah Brown. While the two women appear to have nothing in common, they share the burden of their inability to conceive children and the heartache their infertilities cause.
I’m normally a fast reader, but McCoy’s writing caused me to slow down significantly. I just couldn’t get over the beauty of her writing and needed to slow down to savor it. The passages were descriptive enough to give a vivid image of the scenery without being superfluous and overly “flowery.” Each word appeared to’ve been selected with deliberate intent, rather than trying to impress the reader with her vocabulary. It was just nothing short of gorgeous and made me want to slow down to read more carefully.
As a reader who especially enjoys historical fiction, I always “grade” the overall appeal of the book by whether it makes me want to know more about the historical characters or time period. If I want to sit down and google the “real” characters or backdrop before I’ve even finished the book, then I know that the author has truly captured me as a reader; and that’s exactly what McCoy did. Using the historically prominent characters and the Underground Railroad (UGRR) as historical backdrop, I was drawn into the historical end of the story. I was fascinated by not only the story she was telling about the two women, but also the real story of these people and the UGRR. I wanted to know more…not only about both women, but about the history that eventually would tie them together. All I can say is that it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book where the author so beautifully weaved the history of the past with fictional characters of the present.
The Mapmaker’s Children is a novel I would strongly and very enthusiastically recommend to my reading friends.
Special thanks to Sarah McCoy and Shelf Awareness for my copy of this book. I’m not only overjoyed to receive it, but especially pleased that it met my every hope and expectation, and that I was able to give it an honest and unreserved positive review.