At age seventy-two, Emma Hanley has finally made a plan to get out of small-town Palmetto, South Carolina, and travel the globe with her husband. But when he dies suddenly, just before their departure, she's taken up with the problems of her grown children. Her once free-spirited daughter, Dora, turns to compulsive shopping and a controlling husband, hoping to blot out her wayward past. Her son, Bobby, still lives with her, struggling with the illness that robbed him of his childhood promise.
But then Dora's old flame Jake Carey returns to Palmetto with a broken heart and a gift for gardening, and soon the town is filled with mysterious, potent botanicals and resurgent memories. Before long, Jake and his group of helpers begin to unearth the secrets that have divided the Hanleys for decades.