Marguerite Kelley’s childhood home was dominated by the disappearance of her uncle who vanished into thin air. On a windy morning in November 1905, she is the first to hear about the discovery of a skeleton tucked under the eaves of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan. Suspecting the remains are that of her uncle who worked on the construction of the Cathedral, she wants to be the first person to break the news to Roisin, his widow, and to her father Patrick Kilbane. She hopes the discovery will solve a mystery that has dominated her family for a quarter of a century.
Roisin Gallagher has had many names and nicknames during her fifty-one years. As a child, she was known as The Orphan Gallagher. She was married twice and took each of her husband’s names and when her second husband disappeared, she was known as the Widow Kilbane. Although a wealthy woman who witnessed great changes in the New World with a unique story of her own, it was the disappearance of her husband that preoccupied her most. Ger Kilbane was akin to a myth, a man who reportedly ‘fell off the face of the earth.’
Patrick Kilbane came to New York with aspirations as great as the ship on which he sailed. He and his brothers were fleeing more than poverty and oppression. Patrick was happy to leave his family’s sordid history at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and begin anew in America. In New York, Patrick and his brothers worked on the building of St Patrick’s Cathedral and over the following twenty-five years he found great success as a businessman and Alderman in Five Points. When his daughter greets him with the news of the discovery of a skeleton in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, he realizes that it is as impossible to flee from his family’s past as it is for a man to disappear.
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