There are three books: the first chronicles the life and times of Charlotte, LaFlorya's great-great grandmother who was raised by her free midwife Aunt Iona, and relates her epic struggles from 1827 to 1902.
The first book opens in Crystal Springs, Mississippi in the year 1827, on the day that an orphaned seven-year old Charlotte accompanies her Aunt Iona on a double mission: to bring Lucie Mae's baby into the world and to "do" for Miz Blaylock, wife of Doctor Blaylock who is Aunt Iona's sponsor and benefactor.
As the drama unfolds, Charlotte experiences vicissitudes of life in a small Mississippi town where slave owners and slave "poachers" are as menacingly unpredictable as the poverty of its black families is pervasive. Even the "papers" carefully wrapped in oiled parchment and carried as proof of status--freedom or "owned"--are not protection enough from abductions, murder, rape and mutilation. As Charlotte matures and emerges as the most capable midwife in the area, she marries a preacher and raises children of her own. But life in the backwaters of central Mississippi is changed forever by the events of the civil War and its aftermath.
In the final scene of book one, an aging Charlotte and her young grandson are driving a battered buckboard back to Charlotte's old home where she plans to spend her final days.