The Mapmaker’s Children

This book is two stories in one: that of Sarah Brown, daughter of the notorious John Brown and abolitionist in her own right and Eden Anderson, modern woman dealing with infertility.

First of all, throughout this book, I kept mentally shouting “Adoption!” and “Damn society!”. You see, one of my many soapboxes is on women’s reproductive rights. I feel that adoption as a choice is severely neglected by society. I think that there’s a problem with society when a woman like Eden, who has difficulty conceiving, is pressured into doing rounds and rounds of unsuccessful invitro fertilization instead of being encouraged to talk to a local adoption agency or to become a foster parent for one of the tens of thousands of older children who simply want a forever home! I liken it to people buying a purebred pet when there are tens of thousands of animals in shelters who simply want love! Grrr!

In Eden’s journey to happiness, guess what, she does end up more or less adopting the neighbor’s granddaughter, which is wonderful! I’m not sure whether this as Ms. McCoy’s subtle attempt to change society into being pro-adoption or not. You see, Sarah Brown also let infertility rule her life, though since she was living in 1860 at the time, I could forgive her lack of options. With too many women living Eden’s life today, I don’t think subtlety is what we need…especially in a book about John Brown’s daughter! Especially after reading the author’s note which said that the inspiration for this book was the sentence, “A dog is not a child” that was running around her head for ages. While I agree that a dog (or cat) is indeed a child, if we’re going to argue for alternatives to biological children, let’s not completely ignore one obvious answer that will solve A LOT of problems this society currently faces! Again, grr!

Anyway, I’ll step off my soapbox now.

This book does not claim to be historically accurate though a lot of research went into the character of Sarah and her family. Based on my own research into the social history of women during the Civil War era, I’d say she did a damn fine job getting it right. While the real Sarah Brown might not have had the conversations and relationships as described in this book (though some are historically accurate) I’m sure there were dozens of women who did experience those things who are now long forgotten. In any case, I loved her story.

Except when I wanted to stand up and punch the collective society we live in on the nose for making Eden feel like crap, I adored Eden’s story. I blame society for her feelings, not her (as I do for women in real life). If we’re going to celebrate mothers and motherhood, we need to take a serious step back from celebrating the act of physically giving birth because all we end up doing is praising women for giving birth even though everyone can agree that some women are god-awful mothers while punishing the ones who would be wonderful mothers by the endless questions on when they’ll start having babies!

I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes sociology stories, history, and in particular, women who have trouble conceiving. Because while I think think this book could have physically mentioned adoption a few dozen times, it would have noticeably changed the story, and in the end Eden does show the steps necessary to get out the depression caused by childlessness, which women do need to read.

I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a review.

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