In 1874, in the wake of the Civil War, eleven-year-old ConaLee and her mother arrive at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia. They're delivered to the hospital's entrance by Papa--an abusive veteran who forces himself into their lives afer ConaLee's mother, who hasn't spoken in a year, grows even more withdrawn. Before he departs, Papa assigns them new identities and demands that ConaLee introduce herself as her mother's nurse--not her daughter--so they'll both be admitted and allowed to stay. There, far from family, their beloved neighbor Dearbhla, and the home they know, ConaLee will care for her mother and try to reclaim their lives. Years earlier, ConaLee's father left for the war before she was born and never returned.