Thomas Hall of Boston reasons that his mother’s story about his father being killed in the Civil War doesn’t mesh with the date of his own birth, two years after the war. This fabrication fits into her plan to raise a cultured son, one unlike those held in contempt by the American public: Germans, Italians, and especially the Irish. Thomas’s curiosity leads to an investigation that reveals his real father is Patrick Michael O’Hallahan, an Irishman. Interest in adventure takes Thomas via train to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and eventually farther west, all the time changing his heritage to fit his situation. The plot flows well but doesn’t contain the suspense that might keep pages turning rapidly. The narrative shows how historical and cultural realities influence the characters. Readers are transported back in time to the late 19th century, when unknowing easterners’ dreams of the West prove to be harsher than expected.