Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression. She’s motherless and friendless until she starts working in a factory at night. There she starts to finally fit in until an accident destroys her world again. Depressed, she decides to go to California to jump of the Golden Gate Bridge but the bus she is riding in crashes in North Dakota and changes her life.
Violet is taken in by the Hedstrom family. The son in the family, Kjel, is a musician who is forming a band with two brothers. The band is mixed race which is controversial in the 1930s, to say the least. They take Violet on a road tour with them because Kjel feels sorry for her and she shows enough business acumen that she becomes their manager.
The author uses the framework of a touring band in the 1930s to discuss race relations and music and the role of women in society.