At the very beginning of the twentieth century, Deborah Arden is living with her father John, mother Patty and younger brother Joe in their cottage high up on the exposed moorland hilltops of Shropshire. Their farm is given over to the sheep her father cares for with great tenderness. Their life is simple and their concerns are those of the people of the land. Nature rules their world, and they respond by working alongside its almost unanswerable power on the farm. Patty's argumentative practicality rankles against John's easefulness, but she also works with nature, as busy midwife to all the women around the district. Joe is a straightforward lad, happy with a comfortable home, work in the fields that he knows, and the gorgeous blonde, Lily Huntbatch, from the village of Bitterley nearby. Deborah is a lively intelligent young woman, gossiping with her best friend Lily, lovingly tending the animals with her father, helping her mother at home, and wondering about love.
Then the family hears news that one of the young miners from the works up near the peaks has taken on the job of preacher at their local church. They all go to hear Stephen Southernwood the following Sunday, and most of the family and the local villagers are quietly inspired. For Deborah though, it is as if a bomb has dropped. Her naive questions about love have been resoundingly answered. Now begins a journey of ecstasy, discovery and pain which will affect the whole Arden family and all around it, a wild journey where not only love is at stake, but life itself.