Aaron Jefferson and his best friend Josh face the challenges of life in the Old West when they leave their postwar Shenandoah Valley for the Great Plains in 1865. Unanticipated trouble changes their lives and plans, thus they unexpectedly continue on to the Southern Rocky Mountains. In the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico they encounter: personal risk, love, clash of cultures, hardship, spiritual discovery, and what it means to sacrifice for others. Interaction between Native Americans and the two young men, who have decided to try their hand at life in the unspoiled West, brings new insight to them as they mature as individuals. The same can be said for the young Navajo woman who they meet, Jóhonaá who is a refugee from the U.S. Government's internment of her people. The book references, but does not treat within the narrative, such events as the Long Walk, Fort Sumner, and Bosque Redondo. The Diné, the Navajo endured much and are as true an example of the abuse and wanton official eradication of Native American Indian culture as are the Cherokee and other Eastern nations who endured the Trail of Tears.
Newly married Aaron and his Navajo wife, Jóhonaá, leave the comfort of their home at Mission San Vicente in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to look for her two cousins who have been released from the reservation . . . concentration camp at Bosque Redondo in 1868. Unfortunately the two orphaned sisters cannot be found and may have been taken by slavers to be sold into prostitution. The search leads east into desolate and rugged West Texas, putting the searchers themselves at risk. Will Sunny (Jóhonaá) save them or share their fate. Will Aaron's and Sunny's life together, blending two American cultures, be a tragically short one. Ultimately multiple risks, both physical and legal must be faced and dealt with, as rugged and dangerous missions take place hundreds of miles apart in the Southern Rockies and on the Texas plains.
After suffering much during troubled times for the Navajo, Jóhonaá (Sunny) and her two "sisters" (actually her close cousins) work to become reunited, rebuild the women's lives and seek happier futures. Sunny's white husband and several dear friends aid them in their efforts in the rugged, historical Old West. The dangers are not over and the dangerous men are not all gone; for the American West, in its rugged, raw days, was unfortunately occupied by many of society's less moral men, seeking only their own wealth and pleasure. Also, of course, the final goal of bringing the youngest of the three women to the Brazos means crossing dangerous Indian lands, wild regions occupied by some the harshest American natives, the Kiowa and Comanche, who were not necessarily friendly to the Navajo.
The fourth novel opens as Aaron Jefferson and his Navajo wife, Sunny, who have settled in North Central Texas along the Brazos River, must deal with the risks faced by their friends on the frontier during the Red River War, the last violent gasp of the Comanche nation. It was a time that created widows, orphans, widowers, slaves, and other victims. It was a time of broken lives and broken people, and Aaron and Sunny seek to protect exposed settlers who have received land from the Double H Ranch to which Sunny is now the heir. Her now well known healing and comforting skills for victims of violence and lives broken and ruined by the harsh life of the frontier are brought into play once more.
In the second part of the novel, Aaron returns home to the Shenandoah Valley for a visit and to introduce his Native American wife to his family. As always perhaps, going home is melancholic at best and emotionally traumatic at worst. It can be cathartic, therapeutic, and sometimes devastating.
In the third part of the book, one of the three Navajo women returns to Dinétah, the Navajo homeland, bringing her husband and children along. It is, of course, a somewhat traumatic visit because her Diné ('The People') who had been incarcerated unfairly for four years are still (nineteen years after returning home) rebuilding the homeland that had been scourged by the forces of the U.S. Government. The journey involves a secret mission, as she and her husband knowingly encounter a business/legal problem that they had believed they were prepared for. Finally understanding the great risks involved, they further realize it may have been a mistake to have traveled with their children.
The year is 1902, and America has ventured into overseas imperialism during the War with Spain in 1898 and the Philippine American War that followed. Now, as the latter conflict winds to an end, the forces of history, an adventurous son, and noble deeds draw two ordinary yet unique Westerners into danger once again. Having long ago bravely ventured into a deeply loving marriage that was daring for their times and having been heroes to each other and to those around them, Sunny and Aaron Jefferson bring their unique abilities and courage to a different, beautifully exotic, and sometimes dangerous land. Through the mission of two American adventurers, this novel introduces the reader to the early moments of the complicated relationship between the people of the picturesque and sometimes troubled Philippine Islands and both official America and her people. It is a relationship that remains an enigma even now, 117 years later. Like the experience of the American conquest, endured in her small part of it by the Navajo woman, Jóhonaá (Sunny), it is a story of missed opportunities. But what of Aaron and Sunny Jefferson's voyage to America's new tropical colony? Their goal is always to do the right thing, and they do not miss opportunities.