October 1929 in Toronto was as desperate as anywhere else during the great depression. People lost everything when the market crashed, and devastated, some even committed suicide. The lucky ones were not homeless, but lived a frightened existence anyway – often believing it was only a matter of time before they too joined the masses riding the rails.
Irene MacNeil is ten years old and does not quite understand the world depression, but she knows that something is not quite right in her own house. Her parents often argue and her mother, believing they’d missed the opportunity to invest when the time was right, harangues her father daily on missed chances. Margaret reads the papers religiously and as the news seems to get worse her mood mirrors the daily horrors so that in fact her mother and the world seem bent on the same disastrous ending. Her father, Douglas, prefers to ignore anything negative, and continues along as if nothing is wrong, telling his daughter not to worry, everything will be okay, all along finding his own relief in alcohol. Irene grows up in this atmosphere, where things don’t seem to get better until inevitably something happens that changes the lives of her family.
I can’t say that this is a happy story but it is a good one.