Date Completed: 3/10/16
This was a cute novel. I had hoped for a little more depth in history and discussion of race and politics than I received. Sarah, our protagonist set in the late 1850’s and early 60’s leads us through the life of a woman aiding the Underground Railroad in Civil War South. On the other hand, Eden, our contemporary protagonist of 2014, leads us through the troubles of marriage and moving to a new town in the South. The matching stories parallel each other in pace and depth. As danger ramps up for Sarah in the 1860’s, danger makes itself present in Eden’s own story. Ultimately the struggle of two women unable to bear children presents itself in different ways, but in the end is both a barrier and an opportunity that Sarah and Eden muddle through to the other side.
Sarah underwent more character development towards the beginning of the book, and over time I felt myself caring for her less, surprisingly, as initially her story was infinitely more appealing to me than that of a woman unable to have children (as someone who doesn’t want to have my own kids). However, as my affection for Sarah waned, my appreciation of Eden’s experience grew, as did my understanding of their overarching connection. Eden’s experience more closely mirrored my interests and struggles, as she made connections with a variety of people whose own desires were so different from her own but for whom she would push aside everything to be with. She also underwent a realization of how her word choice can affect other people, which is an important reminder that I all too often neglect to focus on.
As I mentioned, my interest in the historical side of the story waned over time. The accounts of the UGRR and the actual struggles of those who were utilizing the Underground Railroad became buried under the strange romantic wrinkle. Yet even in these moments, the writing remains strong, just perhaps not about the topics I wanted the author to cover. Here’s a sample that stood out to me: “Mother says in times like these, we must put our hands together and pray fervently. I understand the compulsion and agree in principle. However, the fact remains that knitted hands did little to stop Father’s execution. I couldn’t bear if something happened to you. So I write boldly in the hopes that this letter reaches you, even if you are unable to reply.” Also I wish this book had done more to address racism than to simply go over the fact that, yes, there were slaves.
Cleo and Cricket were two characters that really enhanced my overall experience of the book. They were quietly there, supporting Eden even though they each have needs of their own to address. I wouldn’t mind a spin-off that’s just like a graphic novel, or even a picture book, about Cleo and Cricket, hanging out and exploring New Charleston together, playing with some of the other kids and baking dog treats.
I also really appreciated the inspiration “Author’s Note” section at the end. I love hearing what authors have to say about why they wrote the books they wrote, especially when said books are in the historical fiction genre.
Sarah McCoy is the auther of several historical fiction novels, including The Baker’s Daughter, which is an International Bestseller. The Mapmaker’s Children is the first book I’ve read of hers, and I hope to read more.
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.