Setting her stow in the third year of the Civil War, Reeder (Foster's War, p. 61, etc.) writes of a young girl who takes it upon herself to pilot the family's canal boat 184 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown. Kate, 12, learning that her newly remarried, pregnant mother plans to rent out the family's canal boat, decides to make the journey herself, grudgingly enlisting the help of her new stepbrother, Seth. As the two face the dangers of navigating the canal's locks, both are forced to accept and deal with unpleasant insights about themselves as well as one another. Reeder's detailed and realistic narrative of canal life provides a fascinating portrait or a period unique in US history. The real strength of the novel, however, is in the depiction of the complex, tangled relationship that forms between Kate and Seth, and the emotional growth they experience as they struggle to reconcile their feelings about sharing a new family.