W.O. Mitchell worked for many years on this book, polishing what was to be his big, serious, and very controversial novel about white-native relations. The book is set in the Paradise Reserve in the Alberta foothills – but the Reserve is far from perfect. Carlyle Sinclair, a widower who comes to teach in the one-room schoolhouse, is full of optimism, but he is frustrated in and out of the classroom by the passivity of the people he is determined to help. When Victoria, his prize pupil, goes missing in the backstreets of the city, he goes in search of her, and of the truth about his own life.