In the 1920s, the Campbells move west to the isolated wilderness of northern Alberta to begin a new life of homesteading. With the depression engulfing Canada and the United States, the family struggles with poverty and staying alive under harsh conditions. A neighboring family of Indian ancestry provides needed food and advice. For little Jimmy, this friendship introduces him to wildlife lore and a respect for all the natural kingdom. Jimmy comes to know tragedy and hardship. The family's shanty burns to the ground in mid-winter. Dad suffers from personal depression and suicidal thoughts. Mum must leave the family for medical treatment for weeks at a time. Jimmy is thought to be near death and is rushed to a remote hospital by a trapper with a dogsled. Yet there are times of delight and joy: catching fish, eating an apple, riding a bike up and down mountains, listening to animals in the woods, skinny dipping. He is shocked and awed by the beauty of the mountains. Books and the world outside of his settlement begin to fascinate him. When he is a teenager, the family leaves their home and debts and moves farther west to ranch country in the mountains of British Columbia. Jim is devastated to learn that he was a bastard child adopted by his parents. He perseveres with his studies and odd jobs. He is encouraged by teachers who see his potential, and he easily graduates first in his high school class. Jim leaves with plans to join the military as a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot in World War II. A young person reading this novel should gain an appreciation of factors influencing a youth's life: family, society, environment, government. Even though roads seem insurmountable, people can shape their own lives in marvelous ways.