In modern-day Lander, Canaan Phillips has fled her abusive husband and returned to her fierce Southern Baptist grandmother--the woman who raised her 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 30 years. In early 20th-century Lander, Emma Scott took 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 20th-century, Canaan is also 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 heartrending and luminous story about loyalty, hardship, love, and friendship. It is also a reminder that goodness can prevail even through the cruelest hardships.