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Miyax is stranded, all alone on the North Slope of Alaska, and she must be accepted into Amaroq's wolf pack in order to survive.
Slowly but surely, with the help of wisdom from her father, Miyax learns how to survive on the tundra and communicate with the wolves.
They accept her into the pack, and Miyax lives among them until they depart for the nomadic life of the winter.
With the wolves gone, Miyax recalls her memories from her childhood. We learn she spends the years of her life from age four to age nine at seal camp, living a traditional Eskimo life with her father.
Then, she's sent to Mekoryuk, the nearest town, where she goes to school to learn English, lives with her strict Aunt Martha, and now goes by her English name, Julie. Soon after she arrives, she learns that her father has disappeared at sea.
Although there are some bright spots, like getting a new San Franciscan pen pal named Amy, life with Martha pretty much stinks, so she agrees to marry Daniel, her father's best friend's son, who lives in Barrow.
Life in Barrow is okay for a while. She makes a new friend named Pearl, and helps her mother-in-law around the house. But Naka, her father-in-law, is an alcoholic, and her husband Daniel is developmentally disabled.
One day, he attacks her, and she flees, planning to travel across the tundra to Point Hope, where she'll catch a boat to San Francisco to visit her pen pal, Amy. She's Miyax again – not Julie.
That brings us back up to the present, where, now that the wolves have gone, Miyax is now totally alone.
She has run-ins with several menacing creatures, including a wolverine, a bear, and Jello, the lone wolf, who is killed by the pack for stealing her bag.
She travels through the tundra, every now and then running into her wolf pack, which fills her with love and security.
But it's hunting season, and Amaroq is killed by hunters flying over in an airplane. Kapu, too, is injured. Miyax is totally traumatized by the incident, and believes she can no longer live in civilization.
So she builds an ice house by a river and plans to live her whole life out on the tundra. But then an Eskimo hunter and his family pass by and tell Miyax about a leader in their village, named Kapugen. Miyax's dad is totally alive!
She goes to reunite with him, but is disappointed to find that he's married to a white woman and lives a modern life.
She leaves him shortly, but then, when her last friend in the wilderness, Tornait the bird, dies, she decides to return to Kapugen and live with him in town.