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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children

Usually two stories set in the same place but with different characters many years apart are confusing and irritating. The rhythm and plot are disrupted abruptly when the upcoming chapter takes the reader either back or forward in time. the story moves back and forth between Sarah Brown, the daughter of John Brown the famed abolitionist, beginning with his death in 1859 in Harpers Ferry, Virginia and Eden Anderson presently living in the house where the Brown family stayed. As stated above, the reader just gets into the events surrounding Sarah's family and the Hills with whom they stayed when the plot line changes to Eden, a woman who has, with her husband been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant. They have moved from Washington DC into the smaller town of New Charleston, West Virginia . She has given up a successful career and is going pretty crazy at home all day, depressed at not having conceived despite years of many different attempts, and lonely since her husband is on the road most of the week for his job. Just as one gets into this thread, once more we are carried back to Sarah and her family and the problems surrounding Brown''s death and the Hill's involvement in the Underground Railroad. Back and forth the stories go--each of them interesting but never actually picking up steam before another shift. It was well into the book before I actually realized that many of the characters in the present time shared surnames with the families of the Civil War period. Also as a result of this pendulum treatment many of the characters in both periods are less developed than they might have been, leaving the reader with a desire to know more about certain ones. The best developed and my favorite characters were the dog, Cricket, and the little girl next door, Cleo--both of whom were in the present time. It is a shame--I think both stories could have been developed into a satisfying book. Instead, the author has attempted to align the stories of two women who happened to share the same home in different times. Of the two, Sarah Brown is the more interesting and sympathetic heroine. I've been to the Brown homestead in North Elba, New York--many years ago, before it was spruced up to be a destination. I've read much about John Brown and don't find him a sympathetic character at all. Even his Committee of Six became rather disillusioned with him and his methods. But, next time I go to visit my sister in Saratoga, I intend to seek out Sarah's paintings--I'm fascinated my her story thanks to this book. It is hard to rate the book on a star basis--it was tedious going but the stories are interesting. I love the new approach to dog food--Beneful anyone--after years of being told by the vet that feeding my dogs human food--veggies and meat and fruit--was bad for them--now it is all the rage. Affluence does funny things to people. Don't think many other cultures treat dogs and cats as pseudo-children--the way we do. Call me guilty. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

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