It's 1948 on a tobacco farm in southern Virginia and a poor young farm girl hopes to break away from an abusive alcoholic father by finding a suitor to rescue her. But for Cora Slaughter, a slight deformity forces her to live in the shadow of her sister Sibby, who basks in the attention of all the local boys. Tormented by the thought that she will grow up to be a spinster, and horribly teased by her schoolmates, Cora takes refuge in the books she reads that her teacher lends her. But life takes a dramatic turn when Cora meets Aaron Melville, a dark handsome stranger who comes into town looking for work. Cora is thrilled that this mysterious man seems to care for her. But what she doesn't realise is that the life she is escaping is ideal compared to the hell she is about to enter.