Emily Carr is one of West Coast Canada's renown painters. Carr from a very early start knew she was different. She spurned her father's attempts to get her to be 'proper' and settle down into the rigid rules of early 21st century life. After her father's death she then went against her elder sister's wishes by escaping society. She travelled the West Coast painting forests and about the native tribes. Happening upon totem poles changed her life as she became obsessed with documenting the poles of the West Coast before they disappeared because of looting. Carr was a woman before her time as she found no problem with the very primitive conditions she encountered while doing this.
Unhappy that she was unable to paint the totems as she wished, Emily then went to France in order to learn more artistic techniques.
This book also tells about Carr's various friends. Sophie is a native who has baby after baby only to see them die and then she feels compelled to buy them Christian headstones. Harold, a son of missionaries, who is an Indian at heart and Claude a french fur trader who steals Emily's heart.
First Line: "Letting her cape snap in the wind, Emily gripped her carpetbag and wicker food hamper, and hiked up the beach, feasting her eyes on Hitats'uu spread wide beneath fine-spun vapor."