The reader meets Sarah Brown the night before the execution of her famous father, John Brown. He is to be hanged for his role in the infamous Harper's Ferry insurrection that played a part in starting the Civil War. Sarah and her family are cared for during this ordeal by the Hill family. Both the Browns and the Hills are abolitionists, determined to end the curse of slavery. Sarah helps in her own way, drawing the maps that help escaped slaves make their way to Canada.
Eden Anderson lives one hundred and fifty years later. She lives in New Charlestown, near Harper's Ferry with her husband. They have come to the town to make a new start. Eden gives up a high-pressure job and tries to reconcile herself to the reality that she may never have a child of her own. Years of fertility issues have almost ruined her marriage and Eden is at loose ends.
The two women are connected over the years by several factors. Both have to reconcile themselves to not being mothers. The house that Eden is living in is the old Hill house, home to Sarah's greatest friends. They are also connected by their journey to find meaning and connection in life and to build things that impact the world.