In Sarah McCoy’s new book, two protagonists tell the little-known history of Sarah Brown, daughter of John Brown, the staunch abolitionist who was executed for the attack he led on Harper’s Ferry. Sarah Brown used her natural talent as a painter to embed secret maps of the way north in her landscapes, to be used by runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad. She also used other tools to help slaves escape, including a porcelain doll whose body was used to hide maps and messages.
The doll becomes the link between past and present as chapters alternate between Sarah’s story and that of Eden, a modern-day woman who moves to an old home in a small town called New Charleston—the very home where Sarah found a friendly shelter during the years up to and during Civil War. Unaware of the house’s history as a station on the Underground Railroad, Eden is caught up in her own struggles with infertility, wondering if her marriage will survive the end of her dream to be a mother. After she finds the doll under the kitchen floorboards, Eden begins an investigation that helps her piece together the past and a new life among the citizens of New Charleston.
Sarah’s adventures give a fascinating peek into the personal life of the legendary John Brown and keep the pages turning. The Mapmaker’s Children serves as a reminder of how objects persist, such as Sarah’s doll, and how memories connected with those objects can last through generations.