Set on the Great Plains of the United States in 1833, in the region that is now southern Nebraska and northern Kansas, the narrative follows sixty-year-old Gerhardt Horst who is stricken with a stroke and thrown out on the open prairie. He survives due in part to the care of Pakskkiis, a Wichita Shaman . Born a woman, Pakskkiis assumes the social status of a man to survive in the male-dominated culture of the Pawnee. Together, along with a Pawnee crone, a mixed-blood boy, and a foundling infant, the two begin a passage through the uncharted possibilities of the early American West with all its savagery, solitude, and splendor. Coming into intimate and lethal contact with hostile tribes and renegade soldiers, Pawnee priests and Christian missionaries, tornadoes, and wildfires, this provisional family struggles to survive and overcome the obstacles of language, sexuality, culture, and religion, in a land of unbounded violence and beauty.