Review: The Mapmaker’s Children

June 1, 2015 Fiction, Historical Fiction 11 ★★★

Review: The Mapmaker’s ChildrenTitle: The Mapmaker's Children
Author: Sarah McCoy
Source: TLC Book Tours
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: I didn’t connect with one of the characters or with the author’s writing, but I thought the dual narrative and historical setting were very well done.

Although abolitionist John Brown believed that women should play a supporting role, even he couldn’t deny the value of his daughter Sarah’s artistic talent. Through her determination to make a difference, she became one of the most important mapmakers for the underground railroad. She also faced personal challenges, including her inability to have children. One hundred and fifty years later, Eden is finding that she may also be unable to conceive. Her focus on having children has cost her a job she loved and is testing her relationship with her husband. The discovery that her house may have been part of the underground railroad may help her regain her joy in life.

This book was a slow starter for me and I ended with mixed feelings. The writing was not my favorite. There is an eleven year old girl named Chloe who sometimes sounds very young and at other times sounds like an adult. Throughout, other characters and the narrator sometimes used words that seemed out of place as well. In general, I was unconvinced by Eden’s character. Her willingness to give up everything she loved to have her own child instead of adopting was never explained. Her behaviour was so extreme, I felt more explanation than IVF hormones was necessary. I wanted to know her deeper motivation. And even Sarah sometimes made romantic decisions that I found very questionable.

There were things I really enjoyed too though. As I got into the story, I fell in love with the small town where Eden lived. Everyone was so kind to Eden and there were some great characters. I particularly appreciated how Eden slowly become engaged in town life. It felt very believable. I was equally interested in Sarah’s story, so it was a well balanced dual narrative. I enjoyed all the small details of Sarah’s daily life during the civil war. They made the time period feel very real. The overall story was less happy than many similar stories I’ve read. This also helped the story feel more real, but some of the sad parts seemed emotionally manipulative.

Based on other very positive reviews of this book, I think this was a case of an author and I just being on different wavelengths. I didn’t quite connect to the writing or to Eden’s character. The elements I was most excited about with this book – the historical setting and the dual narrative – were executed very well, so I’d recommend checking out other reviews to see if this book might work better for you.

For some other perspectives, be sure to check out the other stops on the tour.


11 Responses to “Review: The Mapmaker’s Children”

  1. Melissa

    I felt the EXACT same way! I didn’t connect with Eden and at times I found her downright annoying. The story about Sarah Brown and her family is so interesting, I wish that the author just stuck with her story; there is certainly enough material there for it to stand on its own.

    • DoingDewey

      I’m glad it wasn’t just me! I felt like the author was maybe making assumptions about all women wanting biological children being enough to get us to identify with Eden. But I thought her behavior was way too extreme without there being a more rational reason she wanted her biological children, rather than just adopting. I did really love the other characters in her story though 🙂

  2. Naomi

    I’ve had my eye on this book, partly because I loved reading about John Brown so much in Good Lord Bird. It might still be worth reading for the historical stuff – that’s mostly what I’m after with this book, anyway. And, I’ll check out some of the other reviews!

    • DoingDewey

      I think this could be worth picking up for the Sarah Brown story alone. The historical bits were very interesting and the author included a note explaining which parts of the story were fiction, which I always appreciate.

  3. Katie @ Words for Worms

    Hmmmm. My MIL has mentioned this one to me a couple of times, but I’ve been on the fence. I’m not sure this one is going to rise to the top of my list any time soon.

    • DoingDewey

      I liked it, but I definitely didn’t love it enough to suggest you go against your instincts on this one. I’d give it a pass if you’re not excited about it.

  4. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

    Hmm, this seems like it could have been a great read – so many interesting elements! The historical aspect of a mapmaker for the underground railroad is something I’m not very familiar with so that would be intriguing to read about. It’s too bad it didn’t all work out for you though. I’m not sure if I would read this, so I will take up your suggestion to read the other reviews!

    • DoingDewey

      There were a lot of things I was excited about – the historical setting, the dual narrative – and those parts really were well done. But overall, I didn’t connect to the story as much as I would have liked. The reviews on goodreads were generally very positive though, so I don’t think everyone had the same problem 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I tend to like dual narratives too and I’m always impressed when an author balances the two stories this well 🙂 Thanks for including me on the tour!

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