The novel opens in 1927 with two of the main characters, Neil and Aidan Tierney (nine and thirteen, respectively), riding horseback on the open plains of Montana. The story then moves to the time shortly after the end of World War II. During the war, Neil had become a bomber pilot while Aidan joined the FBI with his close friend Roland Taliaferro. When Aidan returns to Montana, he is sick from a mysterious illness contracted while serving hazardous duty in Argentina. Shortly after, he is found dead of a gunshot wound, an apparent suicide. Neil believes that there is a government cover-up, but he and his family can prove nothing, and the promised explanation of Aidan’s illness never comes from the FBI.
The narrative shifts smoothly back and forth between the postwar era and 2003, mainly in Missoula, Montana. It creates a mixture of relationships not only between the principal characters of the drama, Neil, Aidan, and Roland, but also between a host of other individuals whose lives and actions are central to the story. For example: Opal Mix, the slightly deranged nurse turned coroner, and flamboyant Wendell Whitcomb, Missoula’s homegrown star reporter who began his snooping career as a young Junior G-Man during the World War II years.
McNamer has created a compelling story that weaves through time and her characters. Throughout the novel, she skillfully reveals and tightens the relationships of family, friends, and community. The emotional and psychological bonds are drawn to a stunning conclusion that leaves the reader enlightened about the complexities and incongruities of life.