Despite the hardships of the Great Depression, Sister Rose Callahan's Shaker village of North Homage is surviving nicely. Now they have visitors—a group of "reformers" hoping to create a utopian community that allows more freedom. Rose is disturbed by the group's attitudes...and stunned when one of their members is found hanging from a tree.
The police are quick to rule the death a suicide but as Rose is leaving the orchard she notices a child hiding in a tree. She is Marin, the orphaned foster child of the dead man, and Rose believes she may have witnessed the hanging. The little girl appears to be deeply troubled, and Rose is shocked to discover the cruelty and neglect that has cursed her short life. Rose's fears grow as Shaker beliefs are challenged, questions about the death remain unanswered, and the little girl draws strange and mysterious pictures of her dreams...images revealing a terrible evil, and the danger that someone may be plotting to silence the only witness to a murder.