Book Review: The Mapmaker’s Children

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Oh, how I wanted to love this book! The Mapmaker’s Children, by Sarah McCoy, had so much potential for landing in my permanent collection. Unfortunately, my heart was only enchanted by half the story.

The pages unpack two story-lines: The first is set in 2014 and centers around Eden Anderson, a woman steeped in the disappointment of unmet expectations; the second, whose heroine is Sarah Brown, unfurls during the Civil War era. The chapters alternate, giving small bits about one story before returning to the other. The premise is that Eden discovers a small doll’s head on her property, and she dives into an investigation to uncover its fascinating link to the past and the freeing of slaves from the South.

Sarah’s story gripped me from the start. Her father is an abolitionist, and she is swept up in using her artistic talents to aid the Underground Railroad by way of making maps. Such a tumultuous time period burgeons with drama and conflict; perhaps that’s why it’s so easy to enjoy this half of the book. Sarah is a headstrong and determined character, and I felt that I really knew Sarah fairly early in the book. She makes startling sacrifices and choices that I didn’t expect. She is a fun character to read, and the characters around her serve to amplify her strengths and push against her weaknesses such that she grows.

I wish all 300 pages could have been about Sarah.

Suffice it to say that Eden’s character was painted thoroughly, and I did not like her. It is rare that I experience such antipathy towards a character, but that is the case here. From the start (and for too many pages), Eden was whiny and spoiled and passive and hateful and rash. I didn’t feel Eden was worthy of carrying forth Sarah’s legacy, even in this small way. Her story, though ultimately redemptive in nature, was weak and failed to delve into the deeper parts of her character that could have redeemed her and not just her situation. I do realize that Eden has a supporting role in the book—her story serves to showcase Sarah’s—but, if you’re going to bother to give her a story (instead of just making her the narrator), it should be as engaging as the other 50% of the book. I don’t feel that’s the case with Eden’s story.

Even factoring in these reservations, the book was an interesting read. I recommend it simply for Sarah’s story.

Happy Reading!

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In exchange for my honest opinion, I received a complementary copy of this book from Broadway Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House.

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