An Outsider's Quest in the Navajo Nation
Sean Noland--a middle-aged, recently-divorced English teacher--takes a job at a remote U.S. Government school in the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona. An outsider to the Navajo people as well as his employer, Sean begins to bond with his students despite their deeply ingrained distrust of the belagana, or white man. Some bitter staff members and an oblivious bureaucracy complicate matters.
Sean forms a surprising connection with his half-Navajo dormitory assistant, Leonard Santos. When Leonard and Sean discover that the school's water is contaminated, they covertly set up a temporary drinking system by know they will eventually have to answer to their agency supervisors.
One frigid night, two boys flee from the dormitory because one fears his family's lives are being threatened by his alcoholic father. Sean and Leonard embark on a manhunt to find the boys before they freeze to death. Their desperate search is complicated by a disabled vehicle, the ensuing trek in a frozen wilderness, and Sean's worsening hypothermia. They struggle on toward the boy's house, not realizing a hostage situation awaits them there.