Madeleine Horrocks, pretty and outspoken despite her strict 1950s Catholic upbringing, doesn't understand why religion seems to force people apart. Surely, she would argue to her friend Amy, believing in God should be all about love and forgiveness, not hatred?But Amy has been brought up to believe that mixing with other religions results in eternal damnation, and when Maddy becomes friendly with George, the good-looking Jewish boy who lives nearby, Amy fears the worst. But as they grow up she, too, becomes friends with George, as well as with other young teenagers who meet secretly at the Bell House, an ancient place of burial. When a body is found in the nearby reservoir they all become threatened by tragedy and danger.
Father Sheahan, the whisky-soaked priest from the local church, has meanwhile discovered that his secret past is catching up with him.Bigotry, lust and hatred have been so much a part of this community that it takes the combined forces of young and old - and particularly George's formidable grandmother Yuspeh - to make everything right again.