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May 20, 2015



By: Colum McCann

TransAtlantic tells the story of four generations of strong, independent women against the backdrop of three significant events of the 20th Century – all involving a crossing of the Atlantic between North America and Ireland. The book tells of the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1919 by Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown, of Frederick Douglass’ two-year tour of Europe in the 1845, and of the arduous negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, led by U.S. Senator George Mitchell.  McCann connects these stories through the lives of the women who are impacted by the men and events of the time. Their journeys reveal the struggles of the Irish in the face of extreme poverty and injustice in their homeland and in the search for a new life in America. The book provides insights into history that feels intimate, giving voice to the real-life characters and describing their performance of everyday tasks (e.g. George Mitchell changing his baby son’s diapers!)   It reveals lesser known aspects of history, such as how Douglass’ escape to Europe while still a slave ultimately led to his ability to return to America a free man.  McCann’s style is simple yet compelling storytelling.  His occasionally truncated prose is particularly effective in intensifying the reader experience during the “action sequences,” such as the harrowing flight and landing of Alcock and Brown.

Colum McCann is the award-winning author of six novels and two collections of short stories. His novel Let the Great World Spin, won worldwide acclaim, including The 2009 National Book Award in the U.S.  Thirteen Ways of Looking:  a Novella and Three Stories will be published in October.

Review By: Donna Lefeber