- Samantha Parkington
- Mary Edwards
- Mrs. Hawkins
- Eddie Ryland
- Mrs. Ryland
- Gardner Edwards
- Cornelia Edwards
- Archibald Beemis
Only in The Lilac Tunnel
- Protagonist: A girl who is spending the summer at Dad's home in Plattsburgh, New York. While in Plattsburgh, the Protagonist shares a room with Gracie, which doesn't make her happy. She travels back into the past with a locket that belonged to her stepmother's grandmother.
- Dad: Protagonist's father, who recently remarried. He is strict with regards to the Protagonist's use of technology in his presence, limiting access to her laptop and cell phone to an hour a day and forbidding her from e-mailing, blogging, or posting anything to the Internet without his permission.
- Stepmom: Protagonist's stepmother. She tries her best to bond with the Protagonist, even giving her an antique silver heart-shaped locket that belonged to her grandmother (Protagonist's step-great-grandmother). The Protagonist's stepmother states the locket helped her through a tough time when she was a young girl, though the incident is never elaborated upon. Her locket triggers the time travel for the Protagonist.
- Gracie: Protagonist's five-year-old stepsister, who is nosy.
- Mom: Protagonist's biological mother, a social worker who lives in New York City. It was her idea that the Protagonist should spend time with Dad's new family for the summer. She is considerably a lot more relaxed about technology as the Protagonist has unrestricted access to her personal electronics and is allowed access to Mom's tablet to download content from the Internet.
- Stella: Protagonist's best friend and neighbor back in New York City.
Opening and Potential Plot Events
There’s a knock on the protagonist’s bedroom door. Expecting it to be Gracie, she opens the door and is surprised to see her stepmom, who offers to help her unpack. She enters the bedroom and admires a friendship the protagonist received from her best friend, Stella. As she leaves the room to retrieve something for the protagonist, Gracie appears, annoying the protagonist. Stepmom returns and dangles a locket in front of the protagonist, explaining she had received it from her grandmother and that it helped her through a difficult time. She hands the locket to the protagonist and asks if she’d like to scrapbook with her and Gracie. The protagonist refuses and, after Stepmom and Gracie leave, examines the locket. She struggles to open it but later manages, using a nail file. After the locket springs from her hand and disappears over the edge of her bed, she peers over the side of the bed and retrieves it. She suddenly begins to fall and feels her head hitting something hard. Opening her eyes, she finds herself in the Edwards’s backyard, sitting beside the lilac hedge. She finds the locket in the grass and grabs it, noticing it to be shiner than before. After being able to open the locket more smoothly, the protagonist teleports back to her bedroom, at the exact moment she left. She pinches herself and, after realizing she can travel back and forth without anyone noticing, teleports back to 1904.
The protagonist finds herself in the lilac tunnel, clutching the locket in her fist. Through the leaves she sees Elsa (whom she doesn’t know it) stepping onto the porch and Samantha (again whom she doesn’t know it) entering the backyard. The protagonist hides herself in the tunnel, watching Elsa beating a rug and Samantha perched on the edge of a swing. After feeling someone grab her ankle and pull her towards the tunnel, the protagonist yanks her foot away and scrambles out of the hedge, turning to face Eddie Ryland (again whom she doesn’t know it). Eddie grabs the locket from her, but is confronted by Samantha, who orders him to return it. She introduced herself to the protagonist and then curtsies. When the protagonist mistakes Elsa for her mother, Samantha explains she’s an orphan and that she lives with her grandmother, adding how lonely she feels in her house.
After this opening, events vary according to choices made.
- As Ruby, the protagonist is escorted by Elsa to the tower room and is given a dress and apron to wear. To help prepare for a dinner party, she can choose to either set the table or fold the napkins.
- As Ruby, the protagonist is instructed to clean the parlor fireplace. She accidentally knocks the scuttle over, spilling dust on the carpet and is sent to her tower room as punishment.
- As Ruby, the protagonist spends a day at the Mount Bedford Glove Factory. She notes the factory's conditions and the mistreatment the workers face, leading her to confront the foreman and quit.
- As Ruby, the protagonist is suspected for stealing Mrs. Edwards's dragonfly broach. Hearing Samantha's accusations against Elsa, the protagonist can either agree with her or defend Elsa and decide to search the lawn for the broach.
- As Ruby, the protagonist agrees to board a train to the city. On the train, she notices she's without her locket and must rely on Samantha to retrieve it in time.
- As a visitor, the protagonist goes to the doctor's office, where she meets two children suffering from chicken pox. She's prescribed aspirin but is given tea and a spoonful of cod liver oil by Mrs. Edwards.
- As a visitor, the protagonist teaches Samantha how to ride a bicycle and lends her capris to aid Samantha.
- As a visitor, the protagonist travels to Piney Point. She meets Gard, Cornelia and Archibald Beemis and can go swimming with Samantha. Online endings include eavesdropping on the adults and believing Samantha will be sent to a boarding school.
- As a visitor, the protagonist attends Mrs. Edwards's dinner party and later spends the night in Samantha's bedroom.
Regardless of the ending that is arrived at, the protagonist eventually returns to her own time using the locket, and returns at the exact moment she left. She makes proper goodbyes to Samantha and often others she has encountered, and generally says she has to go back to her family. The protagonist returns with a new-found prospective of her life. This often includes feeling appreciation for the advancements in medical science, understanding and appreciating her own privileges and being more open-minded about her step-family.
Discusses the advancements in technology and women's rights during the turn of the twentieth century. Topics covered:
- The twentieth century nicknamed the "Age of Confidence", with many people being certain that advancements in technology would improve their lives.
- Girls and women beginning to partake in sport previously considered only proper for men, including gymnastics, bicycling and lawn tennis.
- Changes in female active wear, with women adopting bloomers despite them being considered improper.
- The medical advancements of the time, with the introduction of new medicines, the discovery that germs spread diseases, and the hundreds of "lady doctors" working in the country.
- The women who worked as social workers to improve the quality of life for everyone, especially for immigrants and poor people, and made certain factories and workplaces were safe.
- Orphans being sent west on trains from New York City, where they would either be adopted, hired as farm workers, or were sent back.
- The suffragists' efforts to earn women the right to vote, marching through city streets with signs, giving speeches and going door-to-door with petitions.
- Pg. 22: "Record Crowds Enjoy World's Fair in St. Louis," the headline blares. I lift the front page to read the date at the top: June 1, 1904.
- There are no references to Nellie O'Malley by either Eddie or Mrs. Ryland.
- This is an identity the unnamed protagonist can take on if the reader chooses to do so.