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THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN: A Novel ~Sarah McCoy

Monday, May 11th, 2015

“Engaging and emotionally charged…Eden’s realization that ‘what fable and history could agree upon was that everyone was searching for their ever-after, what ever that may be’ neatly sums up the novel’s heart – it’s about the family and the life we create, not always the ones we imagine for ourselves.”  (Kirkus reviews)

THE MAPEMAKER’S CHILDREN is a wonderful, gentle read and I enjoyed it cover to cover.  I thought it very clever to use the life of an historic figure within her context, along side a contemporary character who has some of the same life questions to contend with and lives in the same locale as the historic focus.    Sarah Brown the daughter of abolitionist John Brown (Harper’s Ferry) is the historic character of the story.  She is tracked through the family history and a series of letters written to a prominent family, which sheltered the Brown’s during the trial and execution.  An eleven- year -old Sarah witnessed the death of nearly all of the males in her family during this time period and turned it into her strength and future.  With her ability to paint and draw she created Underground Rail Road maps on cloth and other media for those who could not read to be enabled in their journey northward and success – freedom.

Because of severe Dysentery as a child Sarah was not able to conceive a children and yet it is her children who are part of the title of the story.

Eden is our contemporary character and she and her husband have just moved into New Charleston, West Virginia into an historic home with an interesting doll’s head discovered in the root cellar of the old kitchen.  Eden is weaning off of fertility drugs and is in a hostile rather belligerent frame of mind.  She is the kind of uber selfish “ME” girl of the “me” generation and made me glad when her early chapters moved back to Sarah’s story which I found delightful and very interesting.    By the 4th chapter of Eden’s story, I skimmed until the thought crossed my mind that most of my readers would not be offended by her selfish banter and blaming rhetoric.   Maybe they would even think like my kiddo’s friends who were always telling each other  – “If you do that to me – I’m going to kill you”. People just say those things. I certainly find the blaming behavior everywhere.   I liked Eden at the end of the novel as she did learn some kindness once she started earning some money with her new work and her definition of family expanded.

I believe Sarah McCoy could win the most gracious, Southern Ladies Thank You Note Contest. The novel has that sweet sheen of honey drip known in the south as just good ol’ fashioned manners of speaking clearly and smoothing it all over.  It just felt perfect to curl up in the spring sunshine on my deck and explore this historic story.  I liked this gracious story and particularly learning more about Sarah Brown in our contemporary times of racial unrest.   I was happy the book contained several of her drawing and paintings and her own writing conveyed the story of the times personally.    What a lovely way to learn history and about one’s own values and views.
TLC Book Tours   sent me a hardcopy of this delightful book for review – The MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN.

“Rich, closely observed storytelling full of warmth and heart.”  Charles Frazier, National Book Award winning author of Cold Mountain.

About Sarah McCoy:

“SARAH McCOY is the  New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico; and The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, May 5, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas. Sarah enjoys connecting with her readers on Twitter at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page or via her website, www.sarahmccoy.com.” ( from TLC page)

Related:
The Robot Scientist’s Daughter 
Hannah Coulter
A Snug Life Somewhere
Songs of Willow Frost 

DOLL GOD: A Poetry Collection ~Luanne Castle

Monday, February 9th, 2015

“I talk to him about my cousin’s life, expecting something from him.  Neither of us knows what.” (Page 34)

“Every day the world subtracts from itself,” Luanne Castle observes. Her wonderfully titled collection, Doll God, with its rich and varied mix of poems part memoir, part myth and tale, shimmers as it swims as poetry is meant to, upstream against the loss. “ ~Stuart Dybek, MacArthur Fellow and author of STREETS IN THEIR OWN INK.”

I start writing about DOLL GOD and end up going back to Amazon to these words of praise posted on the book site.   I wonder what this fellow sees in the poems, how they resonated with his concepts of poetry and writing?  I have read the whole book now seven times to find connection, that concise perception that resonates with me and so I would name this a poem within my framework.   Rather when I switched my thinking to read small little essays, I found some phrases that were wonderful.  I would not put it in a poetry column or tab.

DOLL GOD did touch me emotionally with all the sadness of loss and none of the opportunity or delight explored.  Yes, many of the metal toys were melted down for the war effort, and I was captured by the games of war and the games that children play and practice.  What did we truly learn and where do we reflect on these symbols?   If there is no more war, will we go back to metal toys?

“In my confusion, I read the wrong miracles” (page 71)

The author’s rage at cancer makes me want to like this book and yet I try not to inflict my cancer rage on anyone else.  I let it go, sometimes hourly, and I assist in helping other’s let it go because it can eat one alive – literally.  I need to emphasize the gifts of this dis-ease.   I am worthy of so much joy, and I will put this book on the shelf until my next trip to the support group and I will pass it on.

Annie Lamont, the writer has Horrible Bonnie to call when too much is brought to her attention, I don’t have anyone to call right now and this book does not speak to me or share a passion with words or talk about hard things with follow through-my tongue is full of down; why do I work so hard to encourage and why do I keep trying to save?

Please do not take my word for it, because there are a number of reviewers who are singing praises for these poems and the author has more credentials than I.   Serena at POETIC BOOK TOURS and the author sent me a copy of the book for review, and I was happy for the opportunity.  Here is the list of the other reviewers on this tour:

Feb. 10 — Gautami at Everything Distils Into Reading
Feb. 11 — Vicki at I’d Rather Be at the Beach
Feb. 13 — Randi at Bell, Book & Candle
Feb. 14 — Harvee at Book Dilettante

About the Author:

“Luanne Castle has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside.  She studied English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; Western Michigan University; and Stanford University.  Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in BARNSTORM JOURNAL, GRIST, THE ANTIGONISH REVIEW, TAB, RIVER TEETH, LUNCH TICKET, WISCONSIN REVIEW, and other journals.  She contributed to TWICE-TOLD CHILDREN”S TALES: THE INFLUENCE OF CHILDHOOD READING ON WRITERS FOR ADULTS, edited by Betty Greenway.  Luanne divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelin.”  (cover)

Related:
Lust
Joy Street
On The Mountain
Psalms for Troubled Times (Amazon)