From an early age, Ben Baker knows that “when dad is mad, someone is going to get hurt.” He sees it when his father bashes his mother in the head with a shotgun and experiences it through frequent beatings with brooms, rakes or whatever tool is handy. The physical pain is matched by the emotional damage of his father repeatedly calling him “the stupidest and laziest boy in the world.” This mistreatment takes place while working on the family farm and at his father’s service station in a small town located on the foothills of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.
As the smallest boy in his class, Ben also faces abuse at school because bullies find him to be an easy target for punches, kicks and insults. He deals with the cruelty by keeping his back to the wall and doing whatever he can to dodge the bullies. His run-and-hide approach changes when an ex-convict, Derek Dean, takes a job pumping gas at his father’s service station. Derek teaches Ben how to deliver the pain instead of being the one who feels it.
Ben applies what he learns and lashes out with unbridled fury. He uses a steel pipe to humiliate a pair of bigger opponents and knocks out another bully with a viscous kick to the head. Besides getting him in trouble at school, Ben worries that his anger-fueled actions will lead him to become like his father. His mind becomes a battlefield, with a wish to live peacefully fighting against a ruthless desire to punish anyone who messes with him.
Ben’s relationship with Derek shifts from friend to foe when he catches Derek stealing his father’s truck and tools. After Derek spends five years in prison for theft, he returns to Alma seeking revenge. While Ben is on a camping trip with his Boy Scout troop, Derek and two friends confront him and promise to make Ben pay for his role in sending Derek back to prison. With this threat weighting heavily on his mind, Ben reacts with violence to a cruel prank pulled on him by his fellow scouts and finds himself in trouble again. Frustrated, he decides to escape all his problems by running away and living off the land.
Before launching his secret plan, Ben chats with his scoutmaster who encourages Ben to rely on God to help him deal with his challenges. The scoutmaster also promises to pray for Ben. When he runs away, Ben soon needs all the help he can get. Once again, he crosses paths with Derek and a chase through the mountains begins, with Ben leading the vengeful ex-convict on an overnight hike during a powerful snowstorm. Instead of having to merely face punishment for his angry outburst at the scout camp, Ben’s attempt to escape brings him to the point of death. While frightening and painful, this battle for survival becomes a turning point in Ben’s life. It plants a seed of hope in him that things will get better.
Ben’s struggles continue, but he moves forward equipped with new strength. His story provides a compelling example of the power of faith and prayer in changing lives. For Ben, it means breaking the cycle of violence, replacing despair with hope and finding peace in a combative world.