Jean Gilkyson is living in Iowa with yet another brutal boyfriend when she realizes this kind of life has got to stop, especially for the sake of her daughter, Griff. But the only place they can run to is Ishawooa, Wyoming, where her loved ones are dead and her father-in-law wishes she was too. For a decade, Einar Gilkyson has blamed her for the accident that took his son's life, and has chosen to go on living himself largely because his oldest friend couldn't otherwise survive. Bound together like brothers since the Korean War, their intimacy is even more acute since a bear horribly crippled Mitch. Griff knows none of this, but once she encounters this grandfather she'd never heard about, and the black cowboy confined to the bunkhouse, she attempts to turn grievous loss, wrath and recrimination towards reconciliation and love.