I recieved a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
"From the New York Times bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a story of family, love, and courage
When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.
Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way."
From the Hardcover edition.
I couldn't wait to get this book in the mail! I was so excited for the opportunity to review this book and I was not disappointed.
The characters, both historic and fictional, are colorful, warm-blooded, and complex. The tapestry woven between eras and the women struggling to find their places and purposes within them is one that at first seems fragile but steadily becomes rich in detail and as hardy as it is enduring.
I absolutely love the character and perspective of Sarah. Faced with plenty of opportunities to become bitter and brokenhearted, she propels herself and in many ways her family and friends toward the opposite spirit, choosing instead to deepen her belief and love of the Abolitionist cause her father and brother gave their lives for, and throwing her every energy into saving and dignifying as many lives as possible. Taking full advantage of each chance to further her talents and intellect so as to make use of them to provide freedom for others, Sarah bursts through the barriers imposed on women of her time. While author Sarah McCoy admittedly takes historical liberties, the integrity of this remarkable woman of history is indisputable, and she is sure to become as dear to your hearts as she is now to mine.
If the book had solely focused on Sarah Brown's unforgettable life I would have been completely satisfied, but intertwining the story with a modern day woman added layers of grief, perturbation, and empathy that makes the story all the more engaging.
I didn't immediately like Eden, her personality felt as bony and sharp as her physical description, but perhaps this was the author's intention. Bit by bit, we begin to see the tendrils of Eden's broken heart slowly reaching out and trying to make sense of her similarly shattered dreams. As her cool demeanor gradually warms from the gentle love of a welcoming community, so did my appreciation for her and my desire to see her find comfort and healing. My respect for her inner strength deepened too, for what she had endured before we come upon her at her most vulnerable.
My praise for this book stems not only from it's rich heritage, so respectfully rendered, nor solely the wonderfully crafted characters, nor simply from the engaging story line that pulls you in right off the bat. It is how all of these elements combine to create a book that stirs up genuine feelings, transports one squarely into the thick of a lost era, and like the best of stories, was difficult to put down.
While this book certainly roused a number of reactions and personal examinations on my part, a feature that I did not expect to like was the Book Club questions in the back. I tend to find Book Club questions trivial rather than thought provoking, however I found several in this set to harmonize succinctly with my own thoughts.
I loved the idea however to have an accompanying playlist, and highly recommend using it to engage even more of your senses while experiencing this book!
This is a title I am proud to add to my personal library, and heartily recommend!
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