Judith Lankester, 15 years old, and raised in the luxury of her grandmother’s Virginia plantation, has made the arduous journey with her widowed mother and her seven sisters to the home of her grandparents in Indiana. Though her mother, Charity, had married away from the Quaker lifestyle, she had always maintained her faith and convictions. After her husband’s death, she freed his slaves, settled them on their own land and used the last of the family’s resources to travel to Indiana. Welcomed in Grandfather Halloway’s home, Charity hopes to set up her loom and begin weaving cloth to sell. The older girls—all except for Judith—also wish to help.
The rawness of the pioneer dwellings and way of life offend Judith’s love of beauty and refinement. She wants to return to the silk and elegance of her grandmother’s home. Except for her gift with young children and skill in fine sewing, she has nothing to contribute to their new way of life. At Grandfather Halloway’s suggestion, she goes to live with the Huff family to help out, but also to learn practical household skills. It is in this kindly crucible that Judith must come to terms with herself, with her family’s Quaker faith and convictions—especially on the subject of slavery—and of where, and with whom, she will spend her future years.
This warm, believable tale about the meaning of freedom and its responsibility is vividly set against the background of social and industrial change in the 1840’s—in the period leading up to the American Civil War.