The Mapmaker’s Children
By Sarah M. McCoy
An integral part of being a woman is the potential to bear children, to nurture and watch the lifelong joys and sorrows of those children’s lives. Two women separated by decades, whose inability to have children affects their lives, are brought to vivid life in Sarah M. McCoy’s The Mapmaker’s Children.
In the present, Eden has a good life. She and her storybook prince of a husband have just bought a beautiful old home. But nothing matters to her because years of trying to conceive a child, including fertility treatments, have not worked. Eden can’t get past it.
In the past, Sarah Brown overhears that the fever that nearly took her life has taken her ability to have children. She grows into womanhood never forgetting what her mother said: “Who will love her now?”
When your worth as a woman depends on the marriage market, that’s a big drawback. When your father is the infamous John Brown, it may be even more significant, depending on the kindness of other abolitionists.
Sarah is not the kind of person to look at things that way though. If one avenue to living is closed, she’s going to find another. Her artistic ability helps her father’s work with the Underground Railroad, depicting maps as artwork. Even if it’s supposed to be a secret, Sarah knows she is helping.
After her father’s death, she is the only child to not give up on the cause or fall into despair. She grabs any educational opportunities possible and the attention of the son of a southern family that believes in their cause of abolishing slavery.
Back in the present, Eden would just as soon spend the day in bed. But her husband gives her a puppy, then leaves for business trips. He also enlist the help of the neighbor girl who is resilient and handy in ways Eden can only marvel at. Finding the head of an antique doll in the house and the arrival of Eden’s musician brother add to the world not allowing her to pull the covers over her head.
Whether it’s the onset of the Civil War and its hardships on families in the path of the battles or the ways in which a modern small town struggles to keep up with the times yet not lose its heart and soul, McCoy weaves the tales of Eden and Sarah into their times. But the times do not take over the women’s stories. The focus remains on their hearts and how they are shaped by the ways they make families.
Although many novels currently use multiple storylines, McCoy shows how it should be done -- to serve a storytelling purpose that has great heart and uses great skill. The Mapmaker’s Children is a novel that is about love in various forms and how one creates a legacy by being true to oneself and what one holds dear. McCoy’s research into Sarah Brown pays off well by bringing this artist and maternal figure back to vivid life.