Set primarily in 1983 in rural Mississippi, this historical novel is about a white 17-year-old boy, Aeamon Lee Mistral, and his African-American friend, Jo-Nathan Markum, who are brash, daring, and determined. They grow up together in caring families without the material symbols of a class-conscious era. After a summer of adventure in Memphis and a trip down the Mississippi River on a riverboat, their indomitable spirit causes them to make bold decisions about their future in an uncertain and competitive world. They are encouraged by an equally strong, and mysterious woman who befriends them. To increase their life chances, one attempts to make the football team at the University of Mississippi, and the other joins the United States Marine Corps. Dealing with both triumph and tragedy is their ongoing challenge.