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In the segregated South of the mid-1900s, fourteen-year-old Nell bears witness to a world that embraces the oppression of women. Married off when she turns sixteen, she journeys from the South to the city of Boston, where she must quickly learn first how to be a wife to a controlling and emotionally abusive husband, and then a mother. After giving birth to three children, Nell's body begins to fail her. Her husband, concerned for her health, pulls away from her physically. But this void of intimacy drives Nell into the arms of another man, Charles-- an encounter that leads to another pregnancy, and another unanticipated adventure for Nell.