Lander, Alabama, 1904. When young Emma Scott claims she has been raped by a ‘black hobo’, a chain of events is triggered that will affect generations to come.
In modern-day Lander, Canaan Phillips has fled her abusive husband and returned to Lander and her fierce Southern Baptist grandmother, who brought her up after her mother’s suicide. Canaan’s one friend during her childhood was her grandmother’s simple brother, Luke. Now frail and elderly, Luke is still living in the corncrib shack that has been his home for thirty years.
In early-twentieth-century Lander, Emma Scott has taken an instant and violent dislike to her new child – a white-skinned boy named Luke. Abused and neglected, Luke eventually befriends Squeaky, a black boy whose family farms nearby. When tragedy strikes, Luke takes to the railroad, and as he enters manhood on the rails, we begin to discover the truth behind the events that led to his birth.
In the twentieth century, Canaan, too, is slowly coming to terms with her painful past. And, with the help of her adored Uncle Luke, she is learning to love again.
This is a heart-rending and luminous story about loyalty, hardship, love and friendship. It is also a reminder that goodness can prevail even through the cruellest hardships.