Hakan Soderstrom is a man who has become a legend. Giant in size, rumoured to be bloodthirsty and fearless, he is known simply as 'the Hawk'. But behind this myth is a tale of longing and survival. As a young man he is sent from Gothenburg with his brother Linus, to seek their fortunes in New York. In the chaos of the port, he is separated from Linus and finds himself instead on a ship bound for California. Determined to find Linus, Hakan sets out on a journey east, moving against the tide of history, experiencing the Gold Rush and its effects, encountering capitalists and colonialists, explorers and early scientists, and witnessing the formation of America and the betrayal of its dream.