A dense tome for middle grade children that deals with abandonment, abuse, greed, illness, illiteracy and poverty. Weaving fairy tale and folklore into a historical setting – similarly to Grace Lin but in a less structured fashion and with heavier themes – Preus tells the story of Astri and her younger sister, two girls effectively orphaned by the death of their mother and father who left them for America. Now in the care of their uncle, Astri and her sister are marginalized.
Then Astri is sold to a goat farmer named Mr. Svaalberd, she is worked to the bone, physically abused and almost sexually assaulted. Then Astri discovers Svaalberd has been keeping another girl, rumored to be a changeling, with a talent for weaving.
Eventually, Astri finds the courage to escape with the weaving girl, rescue her sister and leave for America. Along the way, she discovers family secrets, betrayals and the courage to cheat death and forge a new future herself and her sister. A well told tale.