When I began "The Mapmaker's Children," I was only passingly familiar with the man named John Brown.
In case you don't remember him either, he was the radical abolitionist and insurrectionist who was executed in 1859 for seizing a government building in the Harper's Ferry raid. With deep, Scripture-centered convictions about the evil of slavery, Mr. Brown determined to lead a rebellion and set the slaves free. The tragedy is the blood he shed in the process. I'm sure volumes have been written about the man and his mind and motivations, because his acts are considered one of the catalysts that began the War Between the States.
"The Mapmaker's Children" is not a John Brown biography. It's not a historical biography of anybody, as the author tells us in her endnotes. It is the story of two women, one from today and one from a hundred and fifty years ago. The lady from the past, though, is based on John Brown's daughter- Sarah.
By the end of this book, I was both intrigued and troubled by John Brown's role in history, and I cared about the fate of his family as the author imagined it.
Sarah is fiercely loyal to her father, even when she wishes that he'd trust her with his plans. The fight for abolition is men's work, yet Sarah has a skill that her father needs. She is a deft and talented artist, with a memory for natural scenes and a hand that captures their likeness keenly. Sarah has what is needed to be a mapmaker for the Underground Railroad.
This is her story- of her grief over her father, her choices of how to live and who to love, and her heart full of devotion in a torn world. And it may become your new favorite historical novel.
Of course, there is the modern storyline too. That story, and its links to Sarah's, comes together with similar power. Eden and Jack Anderson have spent years trying to "start a family." That innocent little phrase masks the regret, frustration, and fear that came along with infertility. And Eden feels so alone.
Over the course of Eden's chapters, we watch her slowly come back to life again in all the best ways. We feel little stabs of her pain, and we taste the small pleasures that sneak into her dark days. The supporting characters are gems, too, with their own struggles and moments of growth.
"The Mapmaker's Children" is a great example of a dual-perspective novel. It marries the modern and historical voices, and keeps both individual stories moving along while engaging the reader.
I thank Crown Publishing through Blogging for Books for my review copy.