Shortly before the Civil War exploded in the South, thirteen year-old Ben McKenna is fighting his own war against slavery, on the hemp plantation in Kentucky where he lives. His best friend, a crippled slave boy, Josiah, is about to be sold by Ben?s father, and Ben must stop that sale by planning an escape for Josiah and his slave parents. When the buyer for Josiah arrives early, the escape has to take place that very night. Without any kind of plan, or even a map, Ben and Josiah and his parents, Bess and Jesse, embark upon a journey to find the Ohio River and the freedom that lies beyond for the slaves. Instead, they find hostility, danger, and deception, in a quest that costs them more than Ben ever dreamed of. Fear. Hunger. Exhaustion. They are on the run from slave hunters and their dogs, dogs who can follow their scent no matter what they do to disguise it. Hidden barns, tiny attic rooms, cellars full of rotting fruit and vegetables are their only means of safety, and then only for a short time, as they must run again. Treachery seems to be the name of the game, and Ben is never sure if they are going to win, when winning means finding the safety and freedom of the Ohio River.