In the summer of 1962, ten year-old Cassandra Parsons has her life all figured out. She lives with her father and mother in the upstairs flat of a well-appointed two family house, in a pleasant neighborhood of Racine, Wisconsin. Her maternal aunt and grandfather live right downstairs, and her best friend Kitty has always lived two doors down. These facts of life seem as immutable as the tat-tat-tat of her grandfather’s clock, steadfastly keeping time on the mantle while they play their Sunday after-church game of dominoes.
Cassandra’s well-ordered world comes undone when she moves with her parents to the backwoods of Northern Wisconsin, to renovate and manage her grandfather’s hunting lodge. Isolated and friendless, she is left to her own devises as her parents plunge themselves into their new business endeavor. Loneliness and self-pity gradually give way as she learns to appreciate the beauty of nature and the peace of quietude. Soon she meets a half-Ojibwa Indian girl named Sparrow who lives in dire rural poverty. They become fast friends and have a final fling with childhood, spending their last carefree days fishing in the river and roaming the woods, pretending to be ancient Ojibwa, and forging a bond that hopefully holds them through even the darkest of times.