Brooklyn, 1875: Bird Mallon lives on Water Street where you can see the huge towers of the bridge to Manhattan being built. Bird wants nothing more in life than to be brave enough to be a healer, like her mother, Nory, to help her sister Annie find love, and to convince her brother, Hughie, to stop fighting for money with his street gang. And of course, she wishes that a girl would move into the empty apartment upstairs so that she can have a new friend close by.
But Thomas Neary and his Pop move in upstairs. Thomas who writes about his life in his journal--his father who spends each night at the Tavern down the street, the mother he wishes he had, and the Mallon family downstairs that he desperately wants to be a part of. Thomas, who has a secret that only Bird suspects, and who turns out to be the best friend Bird could ever have.