It's 4:30 a.m. on the 23rd of January. Quietly, Tom and his family—Dad, Mum, and Kylie—load the last of their bags and suitcases into their car. Tom waits for Dad's signal and then pushes the car out onto the street and past "the ugly words that told us we were no longer wanted." When they reach the top of the hill they call "Daniel's Whine," after Tom's brother Daniel, Tom jumps in the car. They glide down the hill silently. Tom thinks that when everyone in town wakes up, they won't be forced to remember what Tom's family means to them now.
The prologue sets up several important things for the rest of the novel. First, Daniel isn't mentioned as being with the rest of the family. It's also curious as to why the family is sneaking out. It's clear that something has happened to provoke the anger of the town, which suggests that the Brennan family as a whole is paying for something by leaving.