In 1756, sixteen-year-old Cate Malone waves goodbye to her Da, leaving a troubled childhood behind. Along with two classmates, Daisy and Carie, fellow indentured servants-to-be, the trio excitedly sails on The Fancy for Philadelphia. The expense of the voyage to the colonies from Port London would be "worked-off" by her servitude.
The voyage doesn't last three weeks as expected: it is much extended through horrendous storms, starvation, murderous pirates, an uncharted island, kidnapping, a taste of love, buried treasures, and the birth of a child. With buoyancy and the luck of Cate's Irish blood, will they manage to survive the odds against them?
After months of being assumed "lost at sea," a few of the original two hundred manage to live, still exuberant and with hopes for a new life - just in time for rumors of a revolution against King George. At this point, the friends go their various assigned ways as servants to wealthy Colonists for five years without pay. After that time, they would be free, without obligation, to create a free life in the New World.
At the plantation owned by Colonel Beecham, a rare benevolent master, Cate, and Elsie, a house slave, are manumitted (set free) by Beecham. Cate, detesting slavery, teaches Elsie to read, which is against the law, and the girls establish a compound in Appalachia, where all strays are welcomed, educated, given work, and have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But how long will this "New American Family" last? Will others come who will want more than to share?
There is a rather personable seagull involved, implying the transmigration of souls. Some suspension of disbelief is required when the seagull, a loving and caring old bird, revisits his life as a father of a daughter. He does not meddle and keeps a respectful distance - just keeping an eye on things.