This is a historical tale of domestic violence, hatred, intolerance, ignorance, survival and love in the 1870s. Essentially "chased" from Philadelphia after a mysterious incident with a female student which is not explained to the reader until much later in the book, teacher Imogene Grezlnick moves to a small farming town in rural Pennsylvania to take up a teaching position there. She befriends one of her oldest students, Sarah, who takes a liking to her new teacher. Their relationship blossoms, even more so as Sarah struggles to survive her marriage with her abusive husband, Sam. Eventually, Imogene's past catches up her and Sarah becomes inadvertently involved, so the two women are forced to leave Pennsylvania. They move to Reno, Nevada, and later still, to a stage stop in the desert, Round Hole. The often bizarre relationship between the strong-willed, strong-spirited Imogene and the exceedingly weak, frail and shy Sarah (often annoyingly delicate and feeble to the point of pure exasperation) develops slowly throughout the novel, ending in a rather unconvincing partnership.
It took too long for the story to get going, but once it did, it moved right along and kept my attention. During the time in Caliope and Reno, the story was pretty good and well-written, containing all the best elements of an adventurous life in the West. But after the girls moved out to Round Hole, it started going downhill, all the way to the terrible ending, which was swift and abrupt and lame. The charade that they try to maintain throughout the last third of the book is completely unbelievable and more than a little ridiculous. I thought it was a very poor way to get the two women out of a difficult situation and it just didn't work at all. Still, except for the last part of the book and the unconvincing relationship that develops between the two friends, I thought this was a pretty good story.