One of the reasons this novel is so compelling is that it not only investigates an infamous murder of which historical records remain, but that it also offers the reader a snapshot of early Canadian society at a time when many immigrants such as Grace and her family were travelling from locations in Europe to seek their fortune in Canada and to hopefully escape the poverty they endured back in their home countries. What is clear from Grace's account of her family's voyage across the Atlantic and also their early days in Canada together is how poor conditions were for these new immigrants and how much they had to endure. The account of the crossing alone, with its reference to illness and potential starvation, gives ample testament to the harshness of the conditions facing immigrants. But even when Grace and her family safely arrived in Canada, they were still forced to cope with terrible living conditions. Note how Grace describes their first lodgings:
There was no cellar under it, and I was glad it wasn't winter, as the wind would have blown right through it. The floors were of wide boards, set too close to the ground, and beetles and other small cratures would make their way up through the cracks between them, worse after a rain, and one morning I found a live worm.
The novel therefore helps to explore the living conditions of immigrants in early Canadian history and also to show the kind of hardships that they faced at that time. Although Canada was viewed as a place of opportunity, unfortunately often the reality was exchanging one kind of squalor and poverty for another, and Grace was actually very fortunate to find employment in a good home.