Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, was taken in by an army surgeon and his wife. She learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies - and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and quietly earns her living as an embalmer. But despite her reticence, two chance encounters introduce her to new worlds of activism, and of social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place.