A Book Review of “The Mapmaker’s Children”

map maker“Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world … “ http://www.wikipedia.com.

Perhaps this is true in a wider sense than we ever imagined. Perhaps we are more connected and our lives more similar to the past than we ever realized. Perhaps progress has not made us so different …

The Mapmaker’s Children is an peerless book by Sarah McCoy; intertwining the lives of two women a century-and-a-half apart. What’s even more admirable, is that McCoy reveals the inseparable stitches binding these two lives together, and to the reader, without ever fully allowing her characters to intersect.

It’s a subversive commentary, painful truth scarcely concealed by a riveting story, on some of the most prolific ills of modern life. McCoy examines a brittle marriage, deception between spouses, broken hearts, infertility, abortion, child abandonment and more.

Alternately, she glances backward at the broken aspects of an earlier society—slavery, injustice, murder, loss, bitterness between siblings, loveless marriages and the ravages of war.

Finally, just as her well-developed characters remain only vaguely aware of each other, she loops the reader into the story allowing them to glimpse themselves, their world, in the light of these two women. She reveals to the reader his or her own weaknesses, needs and vulnerability without harshly pointing fingers or even losing the interest of one rapt in the story.

On top of all of this, McCoy expertly weaves in history. It’s another unsuspected tact, evidence of her mastery of the craft of story. The reader gets a lesson in civil rights, the history of the Civil War and the very tangible lives behind the Underground Railroad. There we meet the Mapmaker and her children.

Advertisements

Book Review, “Against the Gates of Hell” by Mylow Young

Despite a promising plot, excellent arc and a dramatic climax, Against the Gates of Hell, by Mylow Young, fell short of my expectations. Flat characters, a heavy dose of “the hood” vernacular and poor editing detract from the book’s potential. 

Against the Gates of Hell, is the story of estranged twins. Herby is a cop, his brother, Kerby, used to be. Nightmares and mood swings plague Herby as he struggles to deal with the loss of his partner, Jerry, during a drug bust. In response to a separate crisis, Kerby fell apart. Now he lives off the streets, using drugs and barely maintaining his job as a security officer. The conflict ebbs and flows as the brothers struggle to reconcile; both seek to repair and strengthen their relationships with God and their families. 

My issue with the characters is best exemplified in Herby’s wife, Rene. She is nothing short of perfect. As a vocalist, musician and song writer, Rene is always worshipping, calling out, “Glory to God!” and counseling her husband using Scripture. She never utters a harsh word, has a cruel thought or disrespects her husband. Even the slightest inkling of her humanity is instantly reversed with a prayer or excused as righteous indignation. While I admire godly women, and seek to become a Titus 2 woman, a good story must expose both sides of characters, enabling the reader to empathize with them.

The language in, Against the Gates of Hell, is difficult to read. On several occasions, I had to stop and reread a sentence two or three times and sometimes simply deduce the meaning by context. No doubt it is difficult to convey the words with right inflection through script, but it gets fatiguing to read and interpret pages of dialogue such as, “Gotta make dis paper, drop dese few so I can re-up.”

Lastly, the editing lessened my appreciation for this book. Several times, beginning on the first page, Young switches verb tense. The opening line is written in present tense, but the second tag switches to past tense. These errors are not impossible to overlook, but frustrating nonetheless. 

Overall, Against the Gates of Hell, has a lot of potential. The plot is good. If one is willing to read less discriminatorily, simply for the entertainment value, it would be an enjoyable book. However, the things I mentioned here diluted that pleasure for me.