In the 1950s Arthur Lemmons, after the death of his wife, moves himself and his daughter from Belgium to the Cowichan Valley of BC to begin a new life. Although limited in his skills, his ability to repair clocks serves him well — a skill that he will teach his daughter Hanne. Trying his best in his parental role, Arthur is given to hard and fast rules that Hanne must follow, rules that have her leave any dangerous situations including, in his view, the elementary school she attends. With every passing day she has the burgeoning desire for something dramatic to be part of her life, and with the loss of her school friendships this only intensifies.
In her isolated home life, Hanne fantasizes about having a brother to share her life, a brother whom she could love and protect. As a ‘home-schooled’ child, Hanne develops stringent social skills but strong independence evolving into a teen with many strengths, but also with all the weaknesses that an isolated, motherless girl would have. To complicate matters, her first real experience with death comes after a few short years when she is sixteen, followed a week later by her first sexual experience when a local boy rapes her. Hanne’s unspeakable tragedy is further complicated when the boy attempts to return the following day and, in a moment of self-preservation, she murders him hiding the body in an abandoned well.
Here begins Hanne’s astonishing pilgrimage into an odyssey of evasive risk and self-protection, as she weighs her guilt against her discovery months later that she is pregnant. With the missing boy’s family pursuing his whereabouts and the RCMP investigating, the tensions rise. It is only with the guidance of the community’s old doctor, Hanne’s neighbour, and several of the community’s women that Hanne is able to weigh her pregnancy against abortion, and her guilt against confession. Eventually she decides to have the baby.
Once her son enters the world, a new flight to freedom accompanies him. Striking out to find herself more clearly, Hanne’s next journey takes her east to Winnipeg and then to Eastend, Saskatchewan, before she can return to her home in the Cowichan Valley where her past can finally be reconciled.