The story opens on a classroom with a teacher who was waiting for the bell to ring. She had been experiencing pain and was under a new treatment regimen, hoping it would work, but just before the bell rang, she began smelling garbage, felt a stabbing pain in her head, hallucinated and collapsed screaming on the classroom floor. Diagnosed with a stroke, she taken to a nursing facility, never to teach again.
In a classroom in east LA, another teacher, Judith Sheffield, ends her summer school session running from boys who threatened her in the school. She escapes wondering what it was she went into teaching for and grateful she has six weeks off before it starts again. When Judith arrives home she receives a phone call from her Aunt Rita, inviting her to move back to New Mexico and teach in the school she attended as a child due to the loss of her childhood teacher to the stroke.She accepts.
When she arrives, she finds the town hasn't changed since she left. Her aunt and uncle still run the hydroelectric plant that provides most of the jobs for the town. She also discovers her aunt's nephew is the town doctor, which she admires, since he went to ivy league colleges and could have practiced anywhere. But she also finds that the the hydroelectric plant is in serious financial difficulties and a large conglomerate wants to buy it.She hooks up with old friends like Frank, the union boss at the plant, and finds she'll teach his son Jed, whom she used to babysit. Jed is half Native American and he is frequently treated badly because of it.
As the book goes on, she gets to know the students and their families. She helps Jed hook up with his grandfather, who is Native America, and somewhat of a shaman. This hookup brings Jed the ability to "know" things are going to happen as his grandfather can see them happen.
Then her uncle dies while investigating shoddy maintenance at the plant, also smelling garbage first. His nephew sells it to the conglomerate. Soon, Frank, is questioning the new company, and holds a union meeting. He, too, has a stoke after smelling garbage. Judith and her aunt Rita begin to suspect the company killed them both, then Rita dies in a mysterious fire.
In the meantime, students she identified as troublemakers start exhibiting robotic and cooperative behavior shortly after getting company-supplied flu shots. She advises Jed against the shot and steals one of them to have it investigated by a scientist friend at Los Alamos. Then the first teenage suicide happens. A girl walked out of her house in the middle of the night and walked off a cliff. As the deaths pile up, Jed notices they are all "troublemakers."
The rest of the book deals with the company trying to stop Judith's investigation, Jed pretending he had a flu shot and acting like a robot to spy on the company, his growing powers of sight and his changing attitudes due to reconnecting with his grandfather, the scientist's efforts to find out just what the flu shot was, and their joint efforts to stop it all.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the Native American aspect of it and how it was interwoven into the storyline; the grandfather who shows up out of nowhere, the native story about the eagle who lost his nesting place when they built the dam, and the ceremonial sweat house.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when the evil plant manager is unnerved by the old Native American who seems to be staring straight at him from a huge distance.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that she is a teacher that genuinely cares about the kids enough to put her job and her life on the line for them.