In a novel that is a near-perfect combination of brutal realism and piercing lyricism, the kindhearted son of a brawling miner becomes a pariah in his lawless frontier mining town when he befriends a Chinese immigrant boy, Zi. Renny's friends have become his enemies, and both he and Zi are beaten; Renny's father wants his son to become a two-fisted fighter, and forbids the friendship. A strike over the arrest of the local priest leads to inflamed tempers, a riot is brewing, and Renny's efforts to protect his friend may cost him his family. Blakeslee maintains a clipped pace but also develops a clear picture of a frontier town and Renny's internal struggles, caught between his father and his conscience. Among the major characters there are no cardboard villains; Blakeslee, who has an eye out for the good to be found in everyone, comes perilously close to turning Zi and his family into saints, but skirts it by showing the boy's empathy, which he expresses in his journal. A powerful story of good vs. good intentions.