It is 1922, and Edward Mason is making a call upon Miss Mary Bayly, the current owner of the legendary Mason family estate, the Retreat. Miss Mary is dying. She plans to give the Retreat to Edward, the closest direct descendant of the original immigrant that Miss Mary can find. Edward believes he can charm the old lady, secure the estate and be back in Baltimore by lunchtime. Instead, over the course of a long day, he hears the stories that will forever tie him and his family to the land. He hears of Miss Mary's grandfather brutally selling all his slaves in 1857 in order to avoid the reprisals he believes will come with Emancipation. He hears of the doomed efforts by Wyatt Bayly, Miss Mary's father, to turn the Retreat into a vast peach orchard, and of Miss Mary and her brother growing up in a fractured and warring household. He learns of Abel Terrell, son of Free Blacks who becomes head orchardist, and whose family becomes intimately connected to the Baylys and to the Mason legacy.