In 1849, half brothers Michael and Joseph Quigley arrive in America seeking relief from the Irish potato famine. Their dying father tasked Michael to watch over Joe, but young Joe is headstrong and soon runs away. He spends his teen years in the wild cow town of West Bottoms, where his entrepreneurial savvy propels him into a successful business until a worldwide depression sends him scrambling.
Joe meets and marries another Irish Catholic, Mary McManus, who comes from a family of higher ilk. The unlikely couple settles in a frontier riddled with lawless violence, which leaves them burned out by Jayhawkers. Natural catastrophes, failed crops, Joe’s military service, and illnesses overburden them, but it is a shocking, single event that leads to the destruction of Joe’s family.
Through the eyes of nine-year old Little Mary Quigley—Joe and Mary’s second-born daughter—we observe the ultimate, horrific moment that leaves her and her five siblings orphaned. This particular act becomes their dark family secret and leaves a lamentable legacy that has waited generations to be revealed.