Anya's family emigrates from the Ukraine hoping for a fresh start and a new life in Canada. Soon after they cram into a tiny apartment in Montreal, WWI is declared. Because their district was annexed by Austria — now at war with the Commonwealth — many Ukrainians in Canada are declared "enemy aliens" and sent to internment camps. Anya and her family are shipped off to the Spirit Lake Camp, in the remote wilderness of Quebec. Though conditions are brutal, at least Anya is at a camp that houses entire families together, and even in this barbed-wire world, she is able to make new friends and bring some happiness to the people around her.
Author Marsha Skrypuch, whose own grandfather was interned during WWI at a camp in Alberta, travelled to Spirit Lake during her research for the book. "When we got to the cemetery, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Imagine seeing a series of crosses, all grown over with brush and abandoned, and knowing that the real person you based a character on had a little sister buried there? That real little girl was Mary Manko. She was only six years old when she and her family were taken from their Montreal home and sent to Spirit Lake Internment Camp. Her two-year-old sister Carolka died at the camp. Mary Manko is in her nineties now and is the last known survivor of the Ukrainian internment operations." explains Skrypuch.