Miyax is trying to get to San Francisco because she essentially feels that she has nowhere else to go. Her own life situation has become unbearable, but she has received a friendly letter from a penpal on the mainland, telling her about San Francisco and inviting her to visit. San Francisco sounds wonderful to her, and so she sets out to get there on her own.
Miyax' mother is dead, and although she had lived an idyllic life for a time with her father at seal camp, he had sent her to live with a disagreeable aunt so that she could go to school as required by law, while he himself had gone to war. Miyax has since been told that he is dead too. Although she has trouble fitting in with her more Anglicized classmates, Miyax loves to learn, but her aunt does not have the money to send her to the mainland to further her education when she has gone as far as she can go at the local school. In accordance with old Eskimo tradition, Miyax' father has made arrangements for her to marry Daniel, the son of his friend Naka. Hoping that Naka will send her away to school if she marries his son, Miyax does so, only to find that something is wrong with Daniel. Still a child, Miyax has been promised to a boy with delayed mental development whom she has never even met, and when Daniel clumsily and forcefully tries to assert his marital rights with Miyax, she runs away. She carries with her a precious letter from Amy, her penpal in California. Amy has written about all the wonderful things they will do if Miyax can come to visit, and so, having no options left, Miyax sets off to get there by herself.