It is an unusual Oregon Trail story, begun in 1833 along Bittersweet Creek in Missouri. Trapper Jake Kincaid returns to his cabin and bride for a few months each year, but upon one such trip, he finds her buried beneath a tree and her mother holding the infant son (named Amos by his deceased wife) he did not know he would have. The story chronicles Amos's life from Pretty Water mission (where Jake's brother Gil is a preacher and his wife Rebecca is a teacher) to life on the prairie with the neighboring Block family (who take him in after Rebecca's death) to a life of dowsing with Jake and his Shoshone bride Blue Owl and finally to the trail leading to Oregon Territory.
Intermingled with Amos's story are the many references to water: the gift or curse of dowsing, Amos's fear of water as a child and Jake's lessons in learning how to swim, the digging of wells for many settlers, the crossing of rivers on their trek northwest, the scent of water young Gwendolyn (whom he will later marry) associates with Amos.
Kimberly Willis Holt's novel is historical fiction, but it is also magical, humorous, a bit romantic, and thoroughly captivating.