As World War I ends, Orin Dawes’ love, Dimple Deribus, lies dead in the hay loft of her father’s stable in Ramsfield, Illinois. Orin soon meets Ruby Somers, the daughter of nomadic tent preacher Rev. Jimmy. Ruby’s “gift” helps her ease Orin’s terminally ill mother’s pain – and read people’s sins. When Orin’s mother dies she is buried in the family plot at the edge of the farm. Orin marries Ruby and they start a family. Over the next twenty years the dairy herd multiplies, and fifteen children, named alphabetically from Adalia to Orinthal, Jr. provide hands to milk the cows. Orin, Ruby, and their children’s dark secrets of murder, arson, and worse sit mutely like ghosts at the edge of consciousness.