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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Delving into the Past with the Present in Mind

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy appealed to my love of historical fiction.  I was intrigued to read about the family of abolitionist John Brown and what happened them after he was hanged in the mid-1800s. McCoy created a compelling portrait of his Sarah Brown and I felt great sympathy for her as she navigated life as a feminist and an abolitionist on her own right. There were some great lines especially this one just after Sarah's father had been executed for helping slaves be free. It sounds like it could have applied to current issues: " People are more capable of love and benevolence than they realized. The collective public voice did not always represent the individual heart. Yes, there are terrible men doing terrible deeds to other men. Men in this very town who abused others based on the color of their skin..."

But McCoy decided to create a dual story with a modern day woman living near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia and that was irritating. The switching back and forth between the historical drama of Sarah Brown and the story of Eden Anderson and her family travails just didn't work for me. Yes, there were many connections between the two plot lines but they still seemed inadequate and contrived. I enjoyed each story separately for different reasons, but I didn't like them side by side.

This book was similar in many ways to The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein, which I read for my book club earlier this year. In The Orphan Train, the plot lines switched back and forth and the book felt like a middle school audience novel. At least in that book the different stories come together (albeit predictably) in the end. But I didn't like that book either. Switching between historical fiction and modern stories has been overdone and The Mapmaker's Children felt amateurish. I feel guilty giving a book a negative review, because I appreciate the effort and know I couldn't do any better. But I feel readers need to know. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.