Attempting to escape the nightmares brought on by his experience in the Vietnam war, Ernst Albright moves his wife, Cora, and daughter Leni, to a remote town in Alaska. Their new home has no electricity or running water. It seems like the perfect place for them.
Leni, a book worm, attends the one room school in town. On her first day she meets Matthew, the son of the most wealthy man in town. They connect over the love of books and become best friends. This is the first true friend she has ever had.
Matthew's mother is swept away when she stepped on thin ice and fell into the river. Her death breaks Matthew. His father sends him to Anchorage to live with his aunt and uncle in hopes he can recover in a new and bigger place. Leni loses the only friend she has ever known. The glory of Alaska is starting to wear and her father is going back to his old abusive ways. He is manipulative and beats her mother. Leni's only happiness is in the letters that come from Matthew.
Matthew decides to go back home for to end his senior year. He and Leni profess their love for one another. Her father hates Matthew and threatens her if she sees him. He finds out and beats her. Suddenly, there a gun shot rings through the night.
Her mother kills her father before he can beat Leni to death. They are forced to leave Alaska and change their identities. They escape to Seattle where Leni learns she is pregnant with Matthew's baby.