A woman reunites with her mother, Mabel, through a dream. The dream takes the daughter to heaven, where she and Mabel spend time together reviewing vignettes from Mabel's childhood in the fictitious town of Shoal Crossing, Alabama, in 1918.
Mabel shares visually dramatic scenes that arise around her family in a time of war, rampant diseases, racial tensions, and economic hardship. In spite of all the tribulations in her childhood, Mabel graphically demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of those who most influence her early in life.
Josie, a black woman who is a family friend and domestic worker, encompasses all the good Mabel sees as a child. Though Josie suffers from the ravages of prejudice and the resulting scars of strife, she tenderly guides Mabel's thinking through sharing her relationship with God. She honestly talks to Mabel about heaven, her childhood memories, slavery, the Klan, and freedom. Josie has a special reasoning ability that poignantly teaches Mabel tolerance for, and acceptance of, life as they must live it in the rural South of 1918.
Mabel and her daughter discover how one's circle of influence from childhood affects who they become as adults.