In 1871, Kirstin Hallberg arrives in Duluth, Minnesota, to find the city council intent on building a canal and ensuring the city's rise to greatness. She's come to care for her elderly grandmother Lena Segerson only to discover Lena very full of life and full of secrets. For when Kirstin opens their front door one day, she finds the brother she long thought dead on the other side. Domar begs his sister to say nothing to their parents, viewing their grief as payment for falsely accusing him of bad behavior years prior and driving him from their Swedish village. Caught between her brother's wishes and the chance to ease her family's pain, Kirstin doesn't know which decision is right.
When Domar's friend Ilian is hurt in an accident, Kirstin and her grandmother volunteer to care for him. Ilian struggles with his own bitterness toward his estranged father, heightened by his injured leg. He can now never return to logging, but the only other thing he really knows and enjoys is making Mackinaw boats--but that would force him to seek his father's help.
As he recovers, a natural attraction starts between Ilian and Kirstin, but both are dealing with problems without easy answers. With no clear way forward, can love ever thrive
and the past be forgiven?