Ten-year-old Pearl Wallace is living in the mountains of rural Tennessee in the depths of the Great Depression and several years into Prohibition.
Pearl struggles with her moral dilemmas: What can she do to protect her best friend Darlene from an abusive stepfather? And, especially, how much does she need to tithe on the money she has earned from stealing her daddy’s moonshine and selling it?
Meanwhile, Emily Weston, a missionary, has come to “lift the poor hillbillies of the region out of their ignorance and misery.” Coming from a place of affluence and privilege, she is quickly overwhelmed by the social and racial issues facing her students and their families.
When murder, fire, and heartbreak threaten those they love, Pearl and Emily must confront the hate and bigotry of their neighbors. Emily’s time in the mountains will be one not of saving souls, but of personal reckoning.