Thirty years ago, Abel Truman found himself on the wrong side in the Battle of the Wilderness, one of the bloodiest clashes of the American Civil War. Its aftermath took him to the edge of the continent, the rugged coast of Washington State, where he has made his home in a driftwood shack with his beloved dog, waiting for the scars of war to heal.
Now an old and ailing man, Abel must make one heroic final journey over the snowbound Olympic Mountains. It's a quest he has little hope of completing but must still undertake to settle matters of the heart that predate even the horrors of the war. But as Abel sets out, violence follows him in the shape of the memories of those he has lost, and the savagery he took part in and witnessed, as well as two men who are darkly tenacious in their pursuit.
Hypatia is a slave whose freedom comes at a terrible price, and who finds herself walking unwittingly into the hellish heart of the Wilderness. Ellen is a white woman, married to a black man at a time that is as dangerous as it is unforgiving. And Jane is a young Chinese girl, who is newly, cruelly orphaned, and clinging on to life. Abel's tortured and ultimately redemptive path leads him to each of them as he encounters compassion amid brutality and tenderness within loss.