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 could have a new friend close by.
But Thomas Neary and his Pop move in upstairs. Thomas writes about his life in his journal - about 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 has a secret that only Bird suspects, and turns out to be the best friend Bird could ever have.