This is the story of Azuba Galloway, a young woman living in New Brunswick during the 1860's. In her fourth month of pregnancy, she loses the baby and the absence of her Sea Captain husband feels acute. She vows that when Nathaniel returns to her and Carrie, their four year old daughter, she will insist that they never be left behind again. While awaiting his return, she fills the emotional void with the company of the well-meaning Reverend Walton with whom she collects marine specimens. While on an excursion together, they fall asleep and are stranded overnight by the tide. The community spends the night fruitlessly searching for them. In the weeks that follow their return the following morning, the small town gossips refuse to believe their innocent explanation. When Nathaniel returns home, Azuba is hesitant to tell her husband of her misadventure and he hears only the gossip monger's version. Although Nathaniel has been vehemently opposed to bringing Azuba and Carrie on his seafaring voyages, he feels that under the circumstances, he has no choice. Furious with Azuba, once aboard ship, he treats her coldly. For her part, Azuba understands Nathaniel's rage and decides that she will lovingly wait for his forgiveness.
Beth Powning's portrayal of the 19th century is well researched and detailed. Her descriptions are filled with objects unfamiliar to many 21st century landlubber readers (a glossary is provided at the end of the novel).
Interwoven into the story of this sea journey filled with many hardships and disasters, is the personal journey of Azuba, who realizes the full impact of her choices not only for herself but for those whom she loves, who learns new truths about people and situations, who discovers the true complexity of human emotion, and who builds a personal inner strength and courage in the face of adversity.