The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero

Any new book by popular historian Timothy Egan (Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher) is a cause for celebration, and The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero is no exception. It recounts the barely believable life of Thomas Francis Meagher, who seems to have had an almost Forrest Gump-like knack for finding himself in the midst of important historical events. Born in Ireland in 1823 to a wealthy family, Meagher became dissatisfied with his father's conciliatory attitude toward the ruling British. He became a skilled orator and joined a small group of Irish nationalists known as Young Ireland, whose outspoken members were energized by the onset of the Great Hunger. More commonly known in the United States as the Potato Famine, the horrific consequences of the blight and British misrule led Meagher to take part in a failed uprising in 1848. Captured by the British, he was deported to the penal colony of Tasmania.

Amazingly, Meagher's journey didn't end there. He escaped from Tasmania and made his way to New York City, where he found a large Irish diaspora population as well as a country sliding toward Civil War. Meagher's busy life contained many more twists and turns than can be summarized here. The Immortal Irishman, thankfully, provides not just a recounting of Meagher's exploits but historical context for his adventures in Ireland, Tasmania and the U.S. In a way, his story is the story of the Irish diaspora, and The Immortal Irishman is part biography, part celebration of the unkillable Irish spirit. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

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