The year is 1931. Mysterious forces--ancient Cherokee spirits--keep anyone with sense away from the Tennessee mountain hollers, but--armed with his great-grand-daddy's map and a fresh-water pearl he found long ago--Obie treks there to look for pearls in the hope of paying off the debt that his father left on the family farm when he died. Obie is joined on this adventure by his friend, Bas, and Chaser, his dog. The boys find a strange country where odd things happen and the rivers seem to be vindictive toward interlopers. Woodsmoke haunts the air and objects seem to move, but the boys persevere despite their fears--and the real dangers--to find the pearls. They return with new strength: Obie now sees his future clearly, and even tells off his shrewish mother. The mountain talk here is larded with folksy metaphors that do not always ring true (""I'm as tired as a cur dog, dragging a string of tin cans""), and the language is at times confusing and difficult (""a symmetrical quiescence of peaks""). But this strange, disquieting adventure does carry power.