In 1962, a thirteen-year-old altar boy and a teenybopper meet on a train to Chicago. Both are shuttling between relatives of their respective dysfunctional families. Willie lives in Hyde Park with her mother and stepfather. Scott lives in a Loop hotel with his Great Uncle Ode while waiting for the annulment of his parents’ marriage.
Willie and Scott spend the summer commiserating and enjoying Chicago, with Willie educating Scott on pop culture and highlights of her city and Scott sharing with her opera, the library, and hikes in the park. Soon, though, it’s time for them both to return to reality. Alone on his last night at Ode’s hotel, Scott discovers a distraught Willie, who threatens to jump from the roof, having accidentally killed her stepfather while fending off another sexual advance. Scott talks her down and convinces her to run away to Ode’s Wisconsin cabin to seek his advice.
When Ode fails to show, the two teens are forced to fend for themselves there in the woods. Winter sets in, and it becomes apparent that Willie is seriously ill. This is only the beginning of their struggles in a new world of their making, away from abuse and unhappiness. Scott and Willie have already been through so much, but together, they might find peace and a loving family among the Ho Chunk.