From the Back Cover:
Shall a man covet another man’s son and shall he seek to secure his own marriage with the child of another’s? This is the problem that profoundly disturbs Dan Ainslie, the brilliant doctor who ministers to the rough, God-fearing miners of his native Cape Breton Island. Forty-two and still deeply in love with his wife Margaret, Ainslie yearns for a son – which he can never have – and so he comes to love young Alan MacNeil. The boy’s mother, Mollie, has portrayed Alan’s absent father as superior to the men of the mines , but inreality Archie MacNeil is a broken-down prize fighter who deserted his family several years before.
The return of Archie MacNeil, bitter and defeated, to the Island brings shattering and violent tragedy into the lives of these people who are among the most memorable characters Hugh MacLennan has created.