At the turn of the nineteenth century, the young Indian woman Sacagawea leads Lewis and Clark to the Pacific. But what about that tiny infant in the commemorative engraving, perched on Sacagawea’s back? He is her son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the youngest member of the Expedition, a child caught between two worlds who grows into a man haunted by the mother he barely knew and the wilderness she betrayed.
Sacagawea is only sixteen when she leads the Expedition and catches the eye of William Clark who finds her exotically appealing. Afterwards, Clark takes in Sacagawea and her child, and raises Baptiste as a foster son. When the teenage Baptiste attracts the notice of the visiting Duke Paul, Prince of Wurttemberg, Clark approves of the duke’s “experiment” to educate the boy at court. A gleeful Duke Paul exhibits Baptiste throughout Europe as a “half gentleman-half animal.” Eventually Jean Baptiste turns his back on the Old World and returns to the New, determined to find his true place there. He travels deep into the heart of the American wilderness, and into the depths of his mother’s soul, on an epic quest for identitiy that brings sacrifice, loss, and the distant promise of redemption.