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The lives and schemes of frontier politicians, Northern Pacific Railroad executives, bonanza farmers, and homesteaders converge in the story of Frances Houghton Bingham, who marries the son of a Red River Valley bonanza farmer in order to remain near her new husband's sister. Emotionally complex, willful and resourceful, Frances is seduced by the myths of opportunity driving the settlement of Dakota Territory, and dares to dream of a new world in which to realize her unconventional desires. Providing a counterpoint to the dramatic risks taken by Frances is the generous voice of Kirsten Knudson, the daughter of Norwegian homesteaders. As Kirsten grows from a voluble girl to a formidable woman, her observations (equal parts absurdity and insight) reveal the heart of the novel.

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