The wagon wheels turn slowly and familiarly after Hadley Chisholm, his fearfully reluctant wife, and their five children from grown to very young, head away from their native Virginia in the mid-19th century. They hook up for a time with other pioneers but are alone during the worst part of the crossing--a savage Pawnee attack which takes the life of little Annabel. Finally they reach Fort Laramie where son Will falls in love with an Indian girl who proves to be white under her leather skins, and where daughter Bonnie Sue becomes pregnant via the worthless guide who has stolen her brother's horse and is strung up. The last half of Hunter's novel gains in interest as the not too demarcated characters grow on you and as their no-option obduracy and courage redeem the westward ho-hum. After all, Hunter's a professional be it on the prairie or within the confines of that 87th precinct.