It is America in the great depression, and he is a child of that time, that place. He runs away from home in Paterson, New Jersey, to New York City and learns the bare bones of life before he hits the road with a traveling carnival. Then one icy night in the Adirondacks, the young man sees a private train roar by. In its lit windows, he spies an industrial tycoon, a poet, a gangster, and a heartbreakingly beautiful girl. He follows them, as one follows a dream, to an isolated private estate on Loon Lake. Thus the stage is set for a spellbinding tale of mystery and menace, greed and ambition, harsh lust and tender love, that lays bare the darkest depths of the human heart and the nightmarish underside of the American dream. E. L. Doctorow has written a novel aglow with poetry and passion, lit by the burning fire of humanity and history, terror and truth.