In 1901, after three tumultuous years as a student nurse at Johns Hopkins Training School for Nurses and a relationship with a doctor who stole her heart, Rebecca Wagner returns to her family farm and the disappearance of virgin forests surrounding rural McAlisterville, Pennsylvania.
However, everything she holds dear has changed. The hometown sweetheart she had promised to marry may have found someone new, and much of the forests in the Shade Mountains surrounding the farm have been stripped bare. Unwilling to succumb to her fears, she convinces the town doctor to hire her, and ingratiates herself into the hearts of people in the Juniata Valley. But it is her work in the dangerous and primitive lumber camps in the nearby mountains that test her skills and strength. Skills that require her to handle horrific accidents and illnesses that take away life and limb. Strength to travel by horseback through steep mountain terrain in oppressive heat and numbing cold, and stand up to hostile wood hicks who are clear-cutting the very mountains she loves.
What hasn't changed is her desire to use native plants and trees for healing as taught by her mentor, a mysterious Indian woman who lives on the edge of the farm ever since Rebecca was born. Nor the harassment by a rogue lumbermill worker whose threats grow ever more serious.
Ultimately, Rebecca must choose between her hometown sweetheart and the promise of a simple life in the country, or the doctor she left behind in Baltimore and the life of privilege he pledges to give her. However, the secrets she is hiding threaten to upend what she believes about herself, as well as everything she has worked so hard for—including her wish to be the healer she has always dreamed of being.