On March 7, 1913, the steamer Alum Chine explodes in the Baltimore harbor.
Charles Sherwood, the founder of the company that insures the steamer, is among the first to hear the blast. While he attempts to cope with the consequences that include his son’s diffidence to the calamity, the disaster touches two other families.
Helen Aylesforth is the imperious matriarch whose stern demeanor belies her love for those around her, including her daughter, Cantata, who is married to Nicholas Sherwood.
The Corporals, who live in the alley house, have served the Aylesforths for generations. Their six-member family includes Randolph, the tender and affectionate stevedore, Arbutus, his ambitious wife, Wanderer, the bright star of the family, and Lillian Gish, the shy, forgotten observer.
Echoes from the Alum Chine shares the tale of these three families who persevere to transform tragedy into triumph during the early 1900s.