As the novel opens, Kate Carrington, a pediatric nurse and wife of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore City, is leaning over the deck of the SS Tropical Sea, contemplating suicide. Deciding that the Caribbean Sea was too beautiful a place in which to die, she leaves the ship and walks boldly into a new world.
Kate leaves behind everything she holds dear, to live in a place that she knows nothing about and where the people rival the fauna for color and improbability. She falls in love with a dreadlocked fisherman who moonlights as a revolutionary, gives birth to a son and learns the ways of the island from Popo, his formidable grandmother.
The island erupts in violence caused by a corrupt dictatorship. A bloody revolt ensues, followed by an invasion of U.S. troops. Kate Carrington, who changes her name to Abigail Fisherman, finds authenticity and a cause worth fighting for. Her common-law husband, Breed Le Grande, is captured by the Americans and drops out of sight.
Back in Baltimore, Dr Colin Carrington, Kate’s husband who had paid a hired gun to have Kate killed on the cruise ship, believes she is dead. Baltimore and Windward have one thing in common: they share the headlines for murder and mayhem.
Colin and Kate run into each other on the island after six years of separation. Much has transpired in their lives. He is on his third honeymoon and she is on her way to pick up medical supplies for her village clinic.
Just when they both thought that they had survived the worst that life could offer, they are forced to rethink.