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In 1931, while riding the rails in the early years of the Great Depression, Maddy Skobel, desperate for food, knocked on the door of a young, pregnant mother’s house in Steamburg, New York, and was given a bowl of chili she has never forgotten. In the hobo tradition of working for a handout, Maddy made a drawing of the mother’s little girl and promised to return one day to draw the new baby.
Now six years have passed and Maddy, troubled by her yet unfulfilled promise, decides to travel from her home in Auburn, New York, to Steamburg to repay the woman’s kindness. What should have been a short, uneventful trip quickly turns complicated as Maddy must deal with the consequences of her own mistakes and the turmoil and tragedy created by others.