In the waning years of the 19th century, Bessie Daniels grows up in the small town of Hot Springs in western North Carolina. Secure in the love of her father, resistant to her mother's desire that she be a proper Southern belle, Bessie is determined to forge her own way in life. Or, as her Cherokee great-grandmother Elisi puts it, to be a whistling woman. Life, however, has a few surprises in store for Bessie....
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In the dawning years of the 20th century, Bessie Daniels leaves her home town of Hot Springs and travels east over the mountains to live with her new husband Fletcher Elliott in the Broad River section of North Carolina. In 1906, they purchase 400 acres of the old Zachariah Solomon Plantation which includes a small house with a shack beside it, a branch of Cedar Creek and a row of dilapidated slave cabins... And ghosts.
In the second decade of the 20th century, major world events resonate even on secluded Stone Mountain where Bessie Elliott lives with her husband Fletcher. There's a great war, one that takes away many young men, including Bessie's kin, some never to return. Bessie's role of healer intensifies as she treats those suffering from the Spanish flu and tries to keep it from spreading further on her mountain. She defends a young woman who's in the middle of a controversy that threatens to tear her community apart.
In the mid-1920s, Bessie Elliott and her husband Fletcher take in their six-year-old nephew John. They are determined to give him a warm and secure home on Stone Mountain, a place where he will feel loved and know he is always welcome. Having a child brings many changes to their daily life and even more for John, but it isn't long before he feels completely at home with his aunt and uncle.