Fourth-generation Alaskan Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock conjures realistic, stunning descriptions of 1970 Fairbanks and environs, making her simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming story come alive. All the narrators are equally as compelling, whether it's figuratively orphaned Ruth, who doesn't know how to handle a personal crisis when her grandmother treats her like she's invisible; dancing Alyce, who saves Sam only to realize he's saved her as well; angry, bitter Dora, who gets lucky with a bet but has no idea what she'd use the money for when all she wants is to be a full part of Dumpling's family; and strong, determined Hank, who just wants to keep his little brothers safe and away from their mother's boyfriend. At times it's obvious how the stories overlap, but other times it's a sweet surprise.
Author Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock suggests that above all else, Alaskans are humble, frugal, unassuming people who work hard and don't draw unnecessary attention to themselves. In one early and terrible scene, Ruth's grandmother chops off her beautiful long blond hair after she vainly replies to a compliment with "I'm pretty all over." In the hierarchy of sins, vanity is at the top to Alaskans like Ruth and Lily's Gran. Perhaps that's the reason why Hitchcock's writing is beautiful but economical -- no flowery or purple prose, only gorgeous and to-the-point sentences. One almost wishes for an epilogue to ensure that these poor, thoughtful, caring kids get a happy future, but the glimpse of happiness is enough; anything more would be an indulgence.