Opens in 1930s India, where Elsie lives with her authoritarian missionary husband and their children. Returning to the American Midwest as a teenager, her daughter Kathryn feels alienated and restless. When she loses her mother prematurely to a stroke, she escapes to Oregon for a fresh and marries Finnish-American Carl. A construction worker sixteen years her senior, he is an unlikely match, though appealing in his care-free ways and stark difference from her Mennonite past. But Kathryn ends up feeling trapped in the marriage, her ambitions thwarted. Samantha, who's grown up in the atmosphere of her mother's discontent, follows her own career to teach at a university in faraway Boston, where she maintains a happy family of her own.