It is 1906. Mattie Gokey is a teenager girl in upstate rural New York. Think for a minute what her life would be like. Cars are very new and a luxury for the rich. Women can’t vote yet. Also, no televisions or cell phones, of course (expect groan here).
Her life revolves around working on the farm. Working the land, milking the cows, cooking and cleaning, taking care of her family. Certainly, there is no need to finish high school or go to college. At least, not if she wants a real life–get married, have kids. But she wants more than that.
She loves writing and wants to go to college and become a famous writer. Her teacher is even helping her apply to college in New York City.
But after her mother dies and her older brother leaves the farm after a fight with her father, she loses any hope of being able to follow that dream. She feels divided between loyalty to her family and continuing with school. Her father is struggling to make ends meet and her sisters are too young to be of much help on the farm. At least Royal Loomis, a big dumb (but very good looking) farmer, is interested in her, though she doesn’t know why. Are these her only choices? Get married to a local farmer or take care of her family?
When a summer job at the local resort hotel opens up, she sees a chance to earn enough money for school. But of course, it’s not that simple. There are her growing feelings for Royal, her responsiblity to her family. And then, just to complicate things, a murder at the hotel.