The story opens with the narrator, Florens, addressing the Blacksmith and telling him not to be afraid of what she is going to tell him. She then highlights the importance of knowing how to read signs and asks the Blacksmith weather he is able to read them.
Florens then mentions her mother, a slave on a plantation and her own fascination with shoes. Florens remembers how she used to try and convince her mother to let her wear shoes even though the shoes she found were broken and old. Later in her life, Florens is given a pair of old boots and she stuffs them with corn so they will fit her better. Florens is sent on different errands and during the errands she thinks about how she was taught to read and write in secret by the Revered who also baptized her. Florens mentions Lina, a Native woman working on the same plantation as her and how they are extremely close to one another. Florens was not wanted by her mother who even gave Florens away to a man named Jacob. Florens was then taken to New England where she began working in Jacob’s farm and where she meet Lina, Sorrow and the Blacksmith. When Florens reached the farm, Sorrow was pregnant and it is implied that the father was Jacob.
The second chapter presents Jacob, on America soil. The narrator mentions the way the slaves were treated and how they had no rights. Jacob did not agreed with this attitude, considering the way the slaves were treated as being unjust and cruel. Jacob was an orphan but despite this, he managed to get wealthy and to make a life for himself.
Jacob travels from Virginia to Maryland, a place known for its trading power and for its richness. Jacob is invited to dinner by D’Ortega, a plantation owner who lives on a plantation named "Jubilo’’. D’Ortega tells Jacob that the some of his slaves died and his new cargo of slaves died as well. Because of that, D’Ortega asked Jacob for more money and more time to pay the money he already lend him in the past. D’Ortega also claims that while his action may appear to be cruel, he is only doing God’s work and helping the people from the African countries to discover God and the true religion.
Jacob looks at D’Ortega’s children and thinks sadly about how all his children died in infancy. For a moment, Jacob is jealous of the man before him but then reaches the conclusion that he is happy with his wife and would not want anything else from life.
D’Ortega takes Jacob outside and tells him to choose from his slaves as a form of payment. At first, Jacob refuses to make the trade but he gives in and decides to take Florens, thinking that the presence of the young girl will make her wife happy.
Jacob reaches an inn where he thinks about his wife and the people working under him. Sorrow, a woman working on the farm, was saved by Jacob from drowning and from that day she worked on the farm. Jacob also bought a slave, a girl named Lina. Jacob likes being a farmer but it did not brought him the profit he hoped it will bring so he began thinking about investing in a sugar plantation.
The third chapter takes place sometime after the end of the second chapter and is told once more from Forens’s perspective. The house Jacob dreamt of building was almost finished but Jacob got sick all of a sudden and died before seeing the house being built.
Soon after Jacob died, Rebekka got ill as well and Florens was sent to find the Blacksmith, the person who could help Rebekka get better. Florens travels with other slaves until one point but then she flees to the woods when the other servants flee there as well.
The fourth chapter is told from Lina’s perspective. Lina thinks about the house and how in order to make space for it, Jacob had to cut down many trees. Lina saw this as a grave mistake and she believes that Jacob’s illness was just the universe punishing him for his deeds. Lina also thinks about the Blacksmith and Florens and how Florens was attracted almost immediately by the Blacksmith who was not a slave. Unfortunately for Florens, the Blacksmith ignored her.
Lina remembers how her village was wiped out by smallpox and how everyone except her and two other little boys died. Some white soldiers saved Lina and the boys and Lina was taken to live with a Presbyterian family who eventually abandoned her as well. Lina was then bought by Jacob when she was 14 and then brought to the farm. At first, Lina and Rebekka did not get along but they soon become friends. When Sorrow was brought to the farm, they both disliked her almost immediately since she could do almost nothing around the house. Now that Rebekka was sick, Lina was the one who took care of her and the farm.
Lina remembers when Florens was brought to the farm and how the two connected almost immediately. Lina tried to keep Florens away from the Blacksmith in an effort to protect her and now she was wondering whether Florens will return after finding the Blacksmith.
In the next chapter, Florens is alone, thinking about her life on the farm and about the Balcksmith. Florens remembers how Rebekka hit Sorrow one time but despite this, she still sees her mistress as a kind and good woman. She also thinks about how the Blacksmith makes her feel safe and protected.
In the next chapter, Rebekka thinks about how she came to America and how her father agreed to send her to marry a man she never meet because they were having financial troubles. Rebekka was not loved by her parents and before starting her journey to America she was told to keep away from the Natives who were seen as savages. Rebekka also remembers the executions she witnessed as a child and how they traumatized her as an adult.
Rebekka lived in London until she was sent to marry Jacob in America and she admits that she likes her life better in America than the life she had in London. Rebekka was happy when she found that she will be sent to marry a man she never meet because in London, she was often harassed by other men who tried to convince her to engage in sexual promiscuity.
The trip to America was an interesting one was Rebekka as the other people traveling were servants, prostitutes or thieves. Despite this, Rebekka got along well with the other women on board. Rebekka remembers that when she first saw Jacob, she was impressed by his physical appearance and how gentle he was with her. The two married almost immediately and soon Rebekka got pregnant. Their first children however all died in their infancy and Jacob began spending more and more time away from the farm, trading and making money.
Rebekka thinks about religion and how it influenced her life. Rebekka thinks how she was forbidden by her religion to express grief when her children died but how she was unable to respect this when one of her daughters died at the age of 5. Rebekka did not found any consolation in the Christian faith but rather in the pagan Native teachings and faith about life after death.
When Rebekka wakes up from her slumber, he asks Lina to give her a mirror. When she looks in the mirror, she is able to see how the illness disfigured her. When Lina tries to take the mirror away, Rebekka refuses to give it to her.
Rebekka thinks about Florens and how the Blacksmith is now her only hope. Rebekka hopes that Florens will be able to find the Blacksmith and convince him to come back with her.
The next chapter is told from Florens’s perspective who is walking near some busheshe. She thinks about the first time she and the Blacksmith were intimate and how Lina told her about her former lover, who used to beat her and abuse her. Lina tries to warn Florens about the dangers of getting invoved with the Blacksmith but she refuses to listen.
After about two days of walking, Florens reaches a cottage where she meets Widow Ealin who takes Florens in and gives her food. Widow has a daughter and Florens quickly notices the cuts on the young girl’s legs. The next day, a group of women come to the house and Widow claims that her daughter is not a demon since she can bleed. The people who came to Widow believe that Florens is the devil and they decided to return the next day. Widow’s daughter however prepares some food for Florens and tells her where she can find the Blacksmith.
The next chapter is told from Sorrow’s perspective. She reveals that she lived all her life on a ship until the ship was attacked and she was the only one left alive. She was later found by a lumberjack and his wife who take care of her. Sorrow is unable to perform the tasks she is given so the lumberjack gives her away to Jacob. By the time she is given to Jacob, Sorrow is already pregnant. Sorrow refused to talk with anyone else except Twin, a hallucination. When Sorrow gave birth, Lina told her that the baby was already dead but Sorrow thinks that she believed the child was born living. It is also implied that the man with whom Sorrow got pregnant was the local deacon.
Sorrow remembers the moment when the Blacksmith came to them and how he helped her get better when she got sick. Sorrow also remembers seeing the Blacksmith and Florens being intimate and how the Blacksmith kissed Florens after their love-making. This made Sorrow realize that no man kissed her until then even though she got pregnant.
Sorrow describes the Blacksmith returning to the farm and taking care of Rebekka. He is however alone and Lina asks him time and time again about Florens and her whereabouts. Around the same time, Sorrow gets into labor but she decides to have her baby on her own. Sorrow gives birth to a healthy baby and soon after she has the baby, Twin disappears. Sorrow also changes her name to Complete, feeling as if she is now a complete woman after having her baby.
The ninth chapter is presented from Florens’s perspective who found in the end the Balcksmith. The Blacksmith was happy to see Florens and agreed to ride as fast as he can to go and help Rebekka. He asks however Florens to stay behind and take care of a young black boy, a small child found in the back of a cart and who has no one to take care of him and of his farm in his absence. The Blacksmith baths and feeds Florens but she notes that he does not kiss her before leaving the house.
Florens is worried that the Blacksmith will chose the young boy over herself and that he will abandon her just like her mother abandoned her. Florens ignores the small boy for an entire day until she notices that he boots are gone. She then takes the boy’s doll and puts it on a shelf and the boy starts to cry almost immediately. Florens grabs the boy’s arm to make him quiet and during the altercation, the boy’s arm is broken. The boy passes out from the pain and in that moment the Blacksmith arrives home. Seeing the scene in front of him, he pushes Florens out of the way, going to take care of the boy. He then slaps her and tells her that she will return to Rebekka since she is a slave incapable of thinking for herself.
The tenth chapter is told from the perspective of Willard and Scully, two men who worked on a farm near Rebekka’s. The two men helped Rebkka burry the body of her husband and then were hired by her to help her repair the farm. The two men notice that the women on the farm are all unfocused and that they are different from the way they were when Jacob was still alive. Florens returned to the farm but she is no longer the happy girl she once was. Rebekka became obsessed with religion and she also starting doing more work inside the house as her illness made her too sick to go outside.
In comparison with the other slaves, Willard was once a free man who became a slave after he committed a series of crimes. Since more and more time was added to his sentence, Willard was unsure when he will be able to walk as a free man. Willard became good friends with Scully, an indentured servant and the two were frequently loaned to Jacob by their master.
Scully then goes on describing every woman on the farm, focusing particularly on Lina. Despite his apparent interest in women, the narrator implies that Scully is gay and that he was involved in a gay relationship with a clergyman in his youth. Scully also developed romantic feelings towards Willard and Scully hoped that one day they will be able to run away together.
The men also notice that Rebekka became crueler towards her servants, beating Sorrow and putting up announcements about her decision to sell Florens. Scully thinks how at first, he saw Rebekka and her servants as family but now he realized that the sense of family was false. Scully thus decided that he must build a family for himself.
The next chapter is told from Florens’s perspective who now returned to Rebekka. Florens notes how cruel Rebekka is and the meaningless chores that are put to do every day. Florens spends her nights in the house build by Jacob, carving words into the wood and hoping that the Blacksmith will one day read them.
Chapter 12 is told from Florens’s mother’s perspective and she reveals how she was gang raped and then got pregnant. When Jacob came to the farm, she tried to convince him to take away Florens because she did not treated the slaves like her master did. Florens’s mother was abused by her master and when Florens began developing, the mother noticed how the master used to ogle her. Because of this, she begged Jacob to take Florens away, hoping that she will be safer that way. The novel ends with Florens’s mother praying that her daughter will one day forgive her and understand why she had to act the way she did.