Howard Gardner is starving to death. All spring and summer, Howard and his older, more charming brother Jack worked as hoggees, driving the mules that pulled boats along the Erie Canal. In a misguided attempt to outshine his brother, Howard chooses to stay behind in Birchport for the winter to save his traveling money and send it home to his family. After his winter job falls through, Howard fears that he might not survive the winter.As desperate as Howard is, he is haunted by the sadness he sees in the eyes of Sarah, the granddaughter of the man who keeps the mules. Even though shes older than her two sisters, she never speaks, and she seems completely disconnected from the world. Sarahs family wont discuss her problem with outsiders, but Howard longs to help her in any way he can, and his quest to do so eventually reveals to him how he truly compares to his brother.Once again, Anna Myers has crafted a moving, nuanced coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of an intriguing historical era.