- Introduction 1
- Plot 2
- References 3
- Sequel 4
The book tells the story of the intertwining lives of the following families: the Larkins and O'Neills, Catholic hill farmers from the fictional town of Ballyutogue in County Donegal; the Macleods, Protestant shipyard workers from Belfast; and the Hubbles. The book describes a number of historical events; from the Great Famine up until the Easter Rising in 1916.
Amidst the ancient Irish Catholic mourning process for his grandfather Kilty, 12-year-old Conor Larkin has a vision of the town storyteller, who tells him of the history of the Fenians, an early 19th century rebel group. This stirs the fire of rebellion in Conor, and sets him onto the path for freedom for his Irish people.
Conor's best friend Seamus O'Neill begins school in town under a Protestant named Mr. Ingram. Conor, needed at home, helps his father in the fields, until he becomes an apprentice at a blacksmith shop. As the years pass, the boys become friends with Mr. Ingram, who teaches them of the power of books and the history of their Irish forefathers. Seamus goes to college in Belfast, and Conor heads to Derry. In Bogside Conor witnesses the extent of the disaster that has befallen the Irish people. Bogside is in tatters and a state of despair that has stricken its inhabitants since before the Great Famine that had occurred between 1845 and 1852. Held down by the Protestant reign in Derry's labor unions, the Catholics are dying slowly without hope.
In Derry, Conor discovers other like-minded Irish tired of the oppression of the Catholics by the British and Protestants. This small group, with the support of the few Irish politicians, becomes the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the roots of Sinn Féin, and the whisper of freedom throughout Ireland.
A 1995 sequel, Redemption, completes many loose ends in the saga.