On Sale: January 22, 2019
Hardcover / e-Book
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From the author of The Water Dancers and Good
Family, an exquisitely crafted novel, set in Ohio in
the decades leading to the Civil War, that illuminates the
immigrant experience, the injustice of slavery, and the
debts human beings owe to one another, witnessed through the
endeavors of one Irish-American family.
Cheated out of their family estate in Northern Ireland after
the Napoleonic Wars, the Givens family arrives in America in
1819. But in coming to this new land, they have lost nearly
everything. Making their way west they settle in Cincinnati,
a burgeoning town on the banks of the mighty Ohio River
whose rise, like the Givenses’ own, will be fashioned by the
colliding forces of Jacksonian populism, religious
evangelism, industrial capitalism, and the struggle for
After losing their mother in childbirth and their father to
a riverboat headed for New Orleans, James, Olivia, and
Erasmus Givens must fend for themselves. Ambitious James
eventually marries into a prosperous family, builds a
successful business, and rises in Cincinnati society. Taken
by the spirit and wanderlust, Erasmus becomes an itinerant
preacher, finding passion and heartbreak as he seeks God.
Independent-minded Olivia, seemingly destined for
spinsterhood, enters into a surprising partnership and
marriage with Silas Orpheus, a local doctor who spurns
When her husband suddenly dies from an infection, Olivia
travels to his family home in Kentucky, where she meets his
estranged brother and encounters the horrors of slavery
firsthand. After abetting the escape of one slave, Olivia is
forced to confront the status of a young woman named Tilly,
another slave owned by Olivia’s brother-in-law. When her
attempt to help Tilly ends in disaster, Olivia tracks down
Erasmus, who has begun smuggling runaways across the
river—the borderline between freedom and slavery.
As the years pass, this family of immigrants initially
indifferent to slavery will actively work for its
end—performing courageous, often dangerous, occasionally
foolhardy acts of moral rectitude that will reverberate
through their lives for generations to come.
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