In 1833, a young, lightning-scarred oak tree grows near a village of Potawatomi Indians, the Neshnabek. Here, Watseka and her family must fight to save themselves from the onslaught of white migration and disease in the Little Woods. But the mandates of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the atrocities of the Black Hawk War of 1832 serve to undermine the Neshnabek's bargaining position as they relinquish their legacy through the Treaty of Chicago and prepare for their removal to the west.
That same venerable oak stands in twenty-first-century St. Charles, Illinois, and bears witness to violence, despair, and hope in the McCallum family's fight to surmount turmoil inflicted by the encroaching world. When her job is outsourced to Venezuela, Marilyn McCallum falls into clinical depression. Her husband, Lloyd, sinks into the compulsion of illegal sports betting after his profession is supplanted by a superabundance of Chinese engineers. But with adversaries and allies emerging from surprising places, the McCallums must come to quick terms with their new reality.
The fate of these two culturally diverse families living in different eras of Illinois history merge in Little Woods, a gripping tale of globalization's disturbing effect on life in the present and the past that offers a sobering view of our future.