In 1845–49, the potato crop in Ireland failed and threw Tara O’Brien, the main character, and Ireland into terrifying fear, the crop being their main livelihood. Her mother’s illness forces Tara to obtain a paying seamstress position in the north. She meets a British officer, Thomas Litchfield, who falls in love with her. She accepts his dinner invitations since she is close to starving but finally stops seeing him. He vows to love her until he dies. Her mother dies. Father Boyle, her mother’s true but forbidden love, performs the burial rite. The British’s actions and enmity towards the Irish peak. The famine keeps continuing another year, bringing starvation, disease, and fever. John McGuire, leader of the Irish rebellion, visits Monaghan, requesting volunteers to steal food from the British ships. He and Tara fall passionately in love and marry. The novel ends ironically with a twist concerning Tara, Thomas Litchfield, and John McGuire.