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TransAtlantic Summary & Study Guide

Colum McCann
This Study Guide consists of approximately 47 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of TransAtlantic.
This section contains 660 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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TransAtlantic Summary & Study Guide Description

TransAtlantic Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on TransAtlantic by Colum McCann .

Lily Duggan is a maid in a Quaker household in Ireland when Fredrick Douglass comes to the country for a visit. Lily is so moved by Douglass's words about freedom and possibilities, that she walks many miles to the Jennings' house in a coastal town where she plans to talk to Douglass again before boarding a boat to America. Lily is embarrassed to discover that Douglass doesn't recognize her. She later admits that she doesn't know what she expected from him and he certainly doesn't know how to handle the situation. After an awkward encounter, Lily leaves the Jennings' house in the middle of the night and goes on to America.

Lily has a brief relationship and has a son. When the Civil War breaks out, her son joins the Union Army. Lily becomes a nurse so she can be nearer to his regiment. She is working at a field hospital the day his body is brought for burial.

By this time, Lily has become friends with the man who delivers ice. His name is Jon Ehrlich. They marry and have four children. There are three older boys and a daughter, Emily. Two of the boys and Jon are killed in an accident. Lily builds a comfortable living for herself and her remaining children. She later divides the company between her remaining sons.

Emily loves to read. She spends hours with her books and, as an adult, wants to become a writer. She has an affair with a newspaper editor and spends years under his editorial thumb, always believing she will someday break into the journalism field in her own right. She has a child by that man. Lottie is brash and outgoing. Emily winds up moving away before she becomes a respected reporter and writer. She covers the efforts of Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown as they prepare to make the first transatlantic flight. By this time, Lottie has become an accomplished photographer and she takes the photos that accompany Emily's articles.

One evening, Emily writes a thank-you note to Isabel Jennings. Lottie asks Jack to take the letter with him, and to mail it once he reaches Ireland. Jack accepts the letter and puts it in his pocket. Ten years later, Lottie and Emily visit Jack to write an anniversary article. Jack admits that he forgot to mail the letter, and he gives it back to Emily. The letter remains unopened.

During that trip, Lottie meets a young man and they soon marry. They have a daughter named Hannah. The years pass and Lottie is happy in her life, though the family is not nearly as wealthy as her husband's family had been years earlier. They have a small cottage on the lough where they love to spend time. The men often duck hunt there. Hannah has a son named Thomas. He's quiet and prefers to think about star charts than hunting. However, during his second year of college, Thomas participates in the hunt. He's out before dawn one morning, placing the decoys, when soldiers kill him. Lottie and Hannah mourn as a mother and grandmother would naturally do.

Senator George Mitchell heads up peace talks in Ireland. As he finally brings the process to a close, Lottie finds a measure of peace with Thomas's death. Lottie never finds that peace. She eventually lives in the cottage on the lough but faces serious financial problems. With the bank demanding more money than she has, Hannah considers the one thing she has that might be of value – the unopened letter written by Emily and flown across the Atlantic.

She tries to sell it but soon discovers that it's of little value because it can't be authenticated. With the help of a new-found friend, she finally opens the letter and finds that it's merely a brief thank-you note. With that hope dashed, she packs up and prepares to let the cottage be put up for auction.

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This section contains 660 words
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