For many years, Madame Sylvie Guilbert has been mistress of Le Petit Cottage, a plantation in St. James, Louisiana. Originally an aristocrat from France, she married a slaveholder by the name of Bayard Guilbert while still very young. In the more than sixty years since, she has despised living in Louisiana.
Cora is a young woman who has spent her entire life under the yoke of slavery, living at a cotton plantation owned by the Randall family. For Cora, life has been anything but easy and it’s like fate dealt her a cruel hand. When she was a little girl, her mother Mabel escaped from the plantation and left her behind to fend for herself. At the very beginning of the book, the narrator describes the life of Cora’s grandmother, Ajarry, who was stolen from her homeland of Africa. We discover that Cora has aspects or facets of her grandmother and her mother within the scope of her own personality.