When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.
Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.
When I originally read this synopsis, I focused in on the codes in quilts and maps hidden within paintings. I was hoping for a DaVinci-Code-esque story set in Civil War times as slaves were being assisted across enemy lines to what they hoped would be a better life. Reading the synopsis again now that I've finished the book, it was exactly what it says, with the focus on two women in different times trying to find and fulfill their purpose in life.
I've said before that I'm very character driven and that I need to be able to empathize with the characters of a story for it to be a success for me. It took me a little while to warm up to Sarah and Eden, probably my own fault for having several books going at once and not reading more than a few pages at a time initially. Once I got into it though, I really enjoyed getting to know these two strong women.
I was apprehensive with Eden in the present as she adjusts to New Charleston and struggles with some difficult life decisions. I was fearful of what she would decide and how it could change her life, relieved as she begins to find her place and decide it's not so bad after all and may in fact be exactly what she needs.
Sarah is more certain in her life's purpose. She is determined to continue the work in the Underground Railroad that was so important to her father, even more so knowing that she cannot have children of her own. She is willing to risk everything to see it through, and discovers her artistic skills are her strength in the endeavor as she is constantly kept at a distance from the true action.
They are tied together across time by the doll's head Eden discovers in their new/old house and I came to care for Cleo, the girl next door, as she takes on the case of the myserious doll head. Cleo starts out as merely a caretaker for the puppy that Eden's husband brings home and she has no interest in, but by the end, she has become an integral part of Eden's life, and is responsible for drawing Eden out of her shell and integrating her into their new town.
If you enjoy stories of individuals finding their inner strengths and place in life, with a little historical mystery thrown in, you should give The Mapmaker's Children a read. It's a great example of maybe not getting what you think you wanted in life, but getting what you needed instead.
COYER Scavenger Hunt #29 - A book with no magical or futuristic elements.