** spoiler alert **
After Molly's husband, Samuel, dies, she finds herself bereft. Her mean brother-in-law and his wife refuse to help her with her three kids (with a fourth on the way). Not only that, but he claims Samuel's part of the business as his own, leaving Molly with no income and no choice but to turn to her brother, someone she hasn't spoken to in years. Luckily brother Matt is a preacher and more than willing to pack her family up and bring her to Illinois. Sadly, Samuel claims Molly's slave and friend, Betsy for his own, which is just one more disaster that nearly cripples Molly.
There was nothing groundbreaking here, nor were there really any surprises. When one of Molly's sons disappears, everyone gives up any hope of finding him alive except for Molly, who insists he can't be dead. She has no reason to believe this, except that she's heard a mysterious voice tell her he's alive. She has a hard time letting go of the crippling blame she's placed on Dr. Karl Spengler, the man she accuses of losing her son. While she eventually 'grows' and gets past this, she only does so after something terrible nearly happens to her daughter, and she realizes how easy it is to lose a child when you think you know right where they are. Her eldest is eight or nine, so I really find it hard to believe that this has never happened before, that she's always kept track of her kids, but then again, before she moved to Illinois she had Betsy to keep track of them.
Molly and Betsy have dreamed of Betsy's freedom for a long time, but even when Molly thinks of Betsy's freedom, she sees them staying together so that Betsy can still help raise her children. Overall, I found Molly to be an unlikable character. She's incredibly selfish. She convinces her brother to allow her to move out on her own, with the secret plan of somehow earning enough money to buy Betsy's freedom so Molly can leave her children with Betsy and go search for her missing youngster. When the newborn baby gets sick, Molly forces her eight-year-old out the door to the neighbors to get medicine, even though he expresses fear of the panthers that prowl in the woods around their home. Disaster strikes while he's on his way to the neighbors, but at least the baby's okay. I had a hard time connecting with Molly on any level, and couldn't really understand why the 'hero' would have any interest in her. I guess the fact that she's 'spunky' and assertive is reason enough.
There are a few scenes written from Karl's point-of-view, but they did little to help explain his backstory. He was far more likable than Molly, but he never gets around to explaining his complicated and painful past, or his rough family life, which leaves big, gaping holes in an already long story. The book is more about Molly's hardships anyway, but then I think Karl's difficulties could have been left out entirely as they don't really add anything to the story.
The resolution at the end of the book is also weak, even though there is a happy ending.