World War II is over and Hiroshima lies in a heap of poisoned rubble when young Quaker Wesley Cunningham returns home to Almond Tree. He served as a stretcher-bearer; he's seen his fair share of horror. Now he intends to build beautiful houses and to marry, having fallen in love with his neighbour's daughter Beth Hardy.
Beth has other plans. An ardent socialist, she is convinced the Party and Stalin's Soviet Union hold the answers to all the world's evils. She doesn't believe in marriage, and in any case her devotion is to the cause. Beth's ideals will exact a ruinously high price. But Wes will not stop loving her. This is the story of their journey through the catastrophic mid-twentieth century-from summer in Almond Tree to Moscow's bitter winter and back again-to find a way of being together.