Abigail Belshaw is a practical woman born into a family of practical men and artistic women in 1828. At the age of ten she meets her future husband, Samuel Gray, but their friendship is cut short when Samuel's family is killed and he is sent to live with his godfather. Years later, Samuel returns to town and the pair are eventually married. Samuel's guardian, who died shortly thereafter, had planned their wedding gift - a trip to the west coast to set Samuel up in the shipbuilding business, like his father and grandfather before him. Abigail is appalled at the idea but, angry and resentful, must accompany her husband. Abby's sickly younger brother, Charles, decides to accompany them, and they are later joined by Sarah Franklin, the mistress of Samuel's guardian, and Cora Adams, a former Indian captive returning to her Indian husband. On the wagon train journey their lives are transformed in many ways. Charles regains his health and leaves the train, and Samuel dies from a snake bite. Abigail, who is pregnant, has endured thus far fueled by anger - which now must give way to understanding and tolerance if the three women are to finish the journey.