Miette has no desire to meet the mother who abandoned her, a woman she knows only as an infamous soldier, drinker, and exhibition shooter: Martha Canary, made notorious as Calamity Jane. But Miette’s beloved adoptive father makes a deathbed request that the two be reunited: “You have to do it. Promise me you will not change your mind. I know that you’ve heard sickening things and those things are all true, but I'm sure she wants to know you.”
Set in the Badlands of the North American West in the late 1800s, In Calamity’s Wake tells the story of Miette’s quest across a landscape occupied by strangers, ghosts, and animals. On her journey she meets an old lover of her father’s, a man who claims to be her brother, an imposter she thinks is her mother, Negro minstrel Lew Spencer, a kind madam who is her mother’s best friend, a wolf who longs to protect her, and many others.
Woven into Miette’s story are the stories of Jane as told in legend, history books, dime store novels, and by the woman herself. When Miette and her mother finally meet, the many threads of these tales come together and Miette must decide whether to forgive the woman who had forsaken her for a life of danger and adventure.