Every now and then a book comes along that is to touching and so beautifully done that it makes you want to hold it close to you and weep. This is how I felt about Sarah McCoy’s THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN.
In this novel, modern day Eden moves to an old house in New Charleston, W.V. Her story parallels another story of that house in a different time: as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Sarah Brown is the daughter of abolitionist John Brown and she makes maps for slaves moving north to seek freedom. Sarah is a complex character and struggles with her own physical and emotional limitations while bravely working to bring families to freedom. Eden, meanwhile, is struggling to come to terms with her relationship with her husband and the trials they have faced with infertility. Eden finds a doll’s head under the kitchen floorboards which starts her on a quest to find out more about the house. Add in a precocious young neighbor and a cute puppy, and Eden reaches the point where she must decide whether she will embrace life, or continue to live in self-doubt.
I just loved this book. I always love Sarah’s writing and this was no exception. She has an amazing ability to capture setting so that you feel the time and place; she captures character as well and you feel you really know these people. Eden’s and Sarah’s stories are woven together seamlessly.
Highly recommended! Sarah will be at the Concord Bookshop on May 7 and my calendar is marked!
Thank you, Net Galley and Crown Books, for my review copy!!
Find this book at an indie near you – it publishes in early May. (I am an Indie Bound affiliate):
I’ve read all of Tracy Chevalier’s books, so I was excited to get THE LAST RUNAWAY from Amazon as a treat for myself (SOME SPOILERS AHEAD). In this interesting take on the pre-Civil War experience, Honor Bright, an English Quaker, has come to Ohio with her sister who is to marry. Sadly her sister dies during the journey and Honor arrives alone, with few prospects and only knowing her was-once-to-be-brother-in-law. She first stays in town with a milliner, Belle, who is as saucy and tough as she is kind-hearted. Honor sews for her and rests up before the rest of her journey. However, Belle’s brother, Donovan, is lurking around. He’s a slave catcher and he is relentless in his job. Honor finds herself strangely drawn towards him, while she is at the same time repulsed by his heartless undertakings.
When Honor finally arrives at the was-once-to-be-brother-in-law’s house, his brother has also just died and the widow is keeping house with him. Since two’s company and three’s a crowd, Honor jumps at the chance of marrying a kind Quaker man (Jack Haymaker) and joins his family of dairy farmers: a surly mother and a quiet, unfriendly sister. But Honor is still thinking about the runaway slaves that she sees coming through Ohio, and she wants to help. This causes a huge conflict with her family, because of past difficulties they suffered for helping slaves escape. Will Honor follow her conscious? Or will she bend to the will of the Haymakers? And what will become of the tension between her and Donovan?
As mentioned before, I’ve read all of Chevalier’s books, but this one seems different to me. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but the writing seemed simpler (not that that’s a bad thing, just an observation). I liked this story and I certainly kept reading, but – to be honest – sometimes Honor Bright irritated me. She seemed to just go through the motions of life (until the end), while men regularly fall in love with her and women are jealous of her. She is meek and passive and then does what she wants. She retreats into silence for a while to basically punish her family. She leaves her husband and ultimately makes him chose the life he’s carved out for himself or life with her. I found her selfish and self-centered and immature. The ending held some brightness to it, and I had hope that Honor would go on and become more woman and less girl.
Fans of Chevalier or of mid-1800’s US historical fiction will most probably enjoy this novel!