Sheila Brary is a girl growing up in Alberta during the worst years of the Great Depression of the 1930s, experiencing hardships that today we can only imagine. Her Irish immigrant mother and Canadian father struggle in this new, rough land, where work is hard to find, money is often non-existent and there are food shortages. Sheila sees little of her father, an irresponsible man who can’t hold down a job and is always looking for the latest get-rich-quick scheme. And Sheila is caught between a father she loves and a harsh, demanding mother who is left to raise the kids while dad is off on one of his many “trips.”
Many people tell Sheila to be a good girl-her mother, the priest, her teacher. But even though she tries hard, Sheila can never please her mother. As Sheila is drawn more and more into the conflict between her parents, she feels as though she must choose a side. The fact that her father is rarely home and she must live with her mother makes the decision for her.
But through all these difficulties, Sheila finds great joy in the world around her. Even though they are poor, she is proud of her little family. She finds solace in her artwork and in an opportunity to act in the school Christmas play. And her love of horses and the beautiful prairie and foothills always raise her spirits.