The story begins in Los Angeles as the character Marianne Wiggins drives around the city. On her way to meet with movie executives, Marianne describes not only the beauty of California but also some of its history. She compares the wide-open wilderness of the West to the more civilized landscape of the East Coast where she grew up. In doing so, the author is setting the stage for the focal character, Edward Curtis, a man who spent much of his life in the mountains, forests, and wilderness areas of the West.

In the next section, the author turns her focus to Clara, who has moved out to Washington Territory (later Washington State). Clara lives with Edward Curtis’s family in an area across the Puget Sound that probably corresponds to present-day Kitsap County on the Olympic Peninsula. The locale is very rustic. The home is located on the edge of a rain forest. Skies are often gray. Tall evergreen trees block out the sun when the skies are clear. The ground is often soggy. Edward and his brother have built the small family home in a small clearing; there are very few neighbors and no central town.

In a flashback, the author takes readers back to Minnesota. In her youth, Clara enjoyed all the excitement of the city of St. Paul. Her father was a painter and her mother was a pianist, so the family home was often filled with other creative people who stimulated Clara’s mind. During a heavy Minnesota winter storm, Clara’s parents were killed. Edward also grew up in Minnesota, but he was raised by his father alone in the wilderness of northern Minnesota. Later, when Edward was a teen, Mr. Curtis heard of the gold rush in Alaska and returned to St. Paul to reclaim the rest of his family and take them out West. With a younger brother to raise and no money, Clara accepted an invitation from Mrs. Curtis to come out West and live with them.

Switching back to the other portion of the story, the author takes readers to Las Vegas as...

(The entire section is 507 words.)