It's the mid-twentieth century in rural Saskatchewan. The Mandolin family is considered different and thus unwanted in their community. After young teenager Snit Mandolin's father commits suicide, some in the community, led by grocery store owner Lewis Whittles, feel their beliefs about the Mandolins are strengthened, and thus make arrangement through their paid help, Ray Kane, who acts as the sole law enforcement person in the area, to take Snit away forcibly to a group home, where he is abused. Snit is eventually able to escape from the group home, he knowing that they will not come after him in that he is seen as only one in many faceless boys in the home. Snit makes his way back to the family farm, where his Aunt Matilda still lives. Partly because she has been continually taunted as a crazy woman, she has been unable to maintain the farm which requires much work to make it once again productive. Initially declining the offer, Snit ultimately agrees to go into business on a fifty/fifty basis with his same aged acquaintance Johnny Swift in making moonshine, which they will be able to distribute through a local bootlegger. While uneducated Johnny, who is seen as just another lowlife in the community, wants to make enough money to escape from his abusive father with he expecting Snit to accompany him, Snit, unaware to Johnny, has other reasons for agreeing to Johnny's offer. They have to stay clear of Kane, who knows of the bootlegging, but not knowing the people behind the operation. What happens in this situation may be affected by Snit learning of a deeper motivation that Johnny has, and by the emotional support provided by fellow teenager, a neighbor named Robin, and by an unexpected person.
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