In 1779, driven out of his home, Calum MacDonald sets sail from the Scottish Highlands with his extensive family. After a long, terrible journey - leaving Scotland a husband and a father he arrives in Canada a widower and a grandfather - Calum settles his family in "the land of trees" until they become a separate Nova Scotian clan: red-haired and black-eyed, with its own identity, its own history.
It is the 1980s by the time our narrator, Alexander MacDonald, tells the story of his family, a thrilling and passionate story that intersects with history: with Culloden, where the clans died, and with the 1759 battle at Quebec that was won when General Wolfe sent in the fierce Highlanders because it was "no great mischief if they fall". Looking back from a diminished, blighted modern world, Alexander remembers the great stories of his people and their battle with the land and the endless Canadian winter: loggers, miners, drinkers, adventurers; men forever in exile, forever tied to their clan and a live history.
Elegiac and haunting, rhapsodically beautiful, with each word laid like stone, this is a novel of lyrical and narrative power that will take its place among the great books of our time.