Thursday, August 17, 1899, had been as ordinary as dishwater for Cassie Tucker and her family, who live near Blue Hill, Nebraska. Up until nightfall, that is, when the telegram arrives saying an orphaned cousin is traveling to their farm. The idea both thrills and frightens Cassie, who wonders if she'll ever be able to accept this stranger. Evan fits in right as rain at first, but his independent beliefs soon set him apart from Preacher Tucker's family. Cassie wonders if he'll stay for good and worries that he won't. As a carefree Indian summer propels the Tuckers toward a year's end, it seems nothing can come between them and the joyfully awaited twentieth century. They are wrong. Seasons of sorrow lie ahead. Mother Nature tests them with everything from drought to dust storms to a blinding blizzard. Cassie fears she could become an orphan, too, as the family becomes separated and she and Evan must fight for their lives.
Cassie's life seems "as ordinary as dishwater" until her orphaned cousin comes to live on the family's farm.