"My mother said she was a nun. That may have been a lie."
So begins the eye-opening and entertaining tale of Vera St. John's chaotic upbringing amid the turbulence of nineteenth-century urban America. Sometimes rollicking and sometimes terrifying, Vera's story features a fascinating array of characters--from the troubled woman who bore her, to the charming Irishman she marries, to the African-American freedman struggling to rescue his wife from slaver, to the beautiful high-priced prostitute she befriends, to the washerwoman who stands by her in a quixotic quest.
From the squalid streets of 1840s New York to the devastation of post-Civil War Memphis, Vera threads her way through the powerful conflicts of American history to find where she belongs. Along the way, she discovers the nature of power and the true meaning of freedom.