The unforgettable journey of an American businessman—from his humble origins to his extraordinary successes—and the compromises he made along the way
When Willis Wayde first lays eyes on the Harcourt mansion near Clyde, Massachusetts, he is fifteen years old. His father is an engineer at Harcourt Mill, and Willis is awestruck by the family’s wealth and power. Seeking guidance from Henry Harcourt, Willis meets Bess, the old man’s granddaughter. Their friendship eventually blossoms into love as the elder Harcourt takes the young man under his wing, recognizing in Willis a kindred spirit whose instinct for making money matches his own.
Pleased with his good fortune, Willis is nevertheless acutely aware of the great social gulf that separates the Waydes from the Harcourts. Determined to make his own way, he sets out on a path that will take him far beyond New England and the insular, old-money world of Henry and Bess. Then the Depression hits, wiping out the Harcourt family fortune. When he comes back into their life, Willis has the power to rescue the last vestige of the family’s prestige: the mill. Torn between his nostalgia for a simpler, more sentimental time and his sharply honed business acumen, Willis must make a fateful decision.