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At the outset of the Civil War in 1861, two mysterious young women arrive by steamboat in Grand Tower, Illinois, a river town on the muddy banks of the Mississippi. One woman, vibrant and commanding, is dressed in the high-fashion regalia of the era; the other, withdrawn and brooding, looks very much as though she may be an escaped slave now walking on free soil. Soon after arriving, the new faces are offered room and board in the Pruitt household. As the mystery unfolds, the lives of both the Pruitts and their visitors are forever changed, and the degree of impact one person can have on another is tested to its limit.