Ben Pulaski’s return to Havre de Grace in 1841, two years after being reported lost at sea, destroys the sense of survival that has sustained Sonja as a widow and mourning mother to a lost infant daughter Ben never knew. Their home swept away by the Susquehanna ice soon after Ben sailed away, Sonja is near destitute as a house servant and emotionally numb to Ben’s resurrection. Sonja seeks the will to live again while Ben represses the brutal beast he became as a captive in China. A stranger to his sons and an intruder to his wife, Ben struggles to become a part of their lives again as he captains a canal barge across the Mason and Dixon Line into Pennsylvania. Tricked into smuggling escaping slaves, Ben nearly dies for his efforts and misses a crucial mortgage deadline with the bank, releasing the rage in both Sonja and Ben.