The story is set in Kansas in 1910. Jacob Witting is a widowed farmer who is still saddened by the death of his wife, Katherine, during childbirth around six years before. Since her death, the task of taking care of his farm and two children, Anna and Caleb, is too difficult to handle alone. He advertises in the newspaper for a mail-order bride. Sarah Wheaton, from Maine, responds describing herself as "plain and tall", and travels out to become his wife. Upon arriving, she proves to have good sense, an interest in helping with even the most physically demanding chores, and a quiet, warm personality. But she grows homesick: miles and miles of Kansas farmland prove no substitute for Maine's ocean vistas. She is under no obligation to marry Jacob and is free to leave if she so desires; much of the story's suspense depends on whether or not she will decide to stay.