Miyax, a thirteen-year-old Eskimo girl is completely and utterly lost on the tundra of the North Slope of Alaska. This is so not good. She has run away from home and her boy-husband in Barrow, Alaska, and is headed for San Francisco to meet her pen pal, Amy. But things aren't going too well, apparently.
But our girl has a plan. She will become a member of a pack of wolves, which will give her access to food. So using their gestures, mannerisms, and howls, she manages to become friends with the pack, led by a regal wolf named Amaroq. She lives among them for a while, but when winter approaches, the wolves leave her to take up the nomadic (traveling) life of winter.
As Miyax thinks about this setback – now she's really alone – she remembers everything that happened in her life that got her to this point. Flashback alert!
Her father, Kapugen, was a great Eskimo hunter with whom she lived a rustic life at a seal camp. Unfortunately, the law required him to send Miyax off to school, and while she was away, he disappeared at sea. Miyax – who in the flashback calls herself by her English name, Julie – was shipped off to a town called Barrow, where she found herself in an arranged marriage to a troubled boy named Daniel. But married life wasn't all it was cracked up to be, so Julie ran away and became Miyax once again.
Back on the tundra, in the present, Miyax decides that without the wolves nearby, it's time to continue on her journey to San Francisco. And off she goes: she packs up her stuff and keeps on trucking through the tundra. She has a few adventures here and there, including a totally terrifying encounter with a grizzly, and all the while, she knows the wolves are nearby, hunting and looking out for her. She also befriends a bird, whom she names Tornait.
As she approaches the coast, Miyax notices signs of civilization. She knows the hunting season has started, which worries her. For good reason, it turns out: one day, her beloved Amaroq is shot by hunters in a plane. Devastated, Miyax knows she can't return to civilization, so she decides to live life as an Eskimo out in the wild. But when she finds out from a passing hunter that her father is still alive, she travels to his village to reunite with him. Yay!
Or… not. Kapugen has changed. He no longer lives like an Eskimo; he even hunts from planes (wait, planes?). Disgusted, Miyax runs away again. But when Tornait dies from the cold, Miyax knows that "The hour of the wolf and the Eskimo is over" (3.263), and so she heads back toward town to live with her father.