Young Finbar Laverty, displaced by Ireland’s Tithe Wars and family treachery, attempts a new start by moving with his volatile wife Maggie, a follower of the Old Religion, from the Cork countryside to bustling Dublin. He is recruited by his friend Dr. James Wilde to help disinter the body of Dean Jonathan Swift during the renovation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but commits an act of vengeance and is forced to flee Ireland.
Seeking fortune in London, Finbar’s inadvertent participation in a Royal conspiracy involving a young court reporter puts him on the run again, this time to America.
The Lavertys begin to think they have found peace in New Hampshire, but suspicion surrounding a female body revealed by the melting ice on Bodge’s Pond and the anti-Irish Catholic frenzy ignited by the Know-Nothings sends Finbar to Concord, Massachusetts. His new bosses’ son, Henry David Thoreau, introduces him to new ideas, Abolitionist activism, and the most influential circle of literary figures in America’s history.
While Finbar’s adopted country is about to be torn apart by civil war, his family is also threatened when the consequences of old sins return to haunt him.