In the backcountry of North Carolina in 1927, 13-year-old Harriet, motherless since birth and rejected by Joshua, her father, and ignored by Ida, her jealous stepmother, has no expectations that she will ever be loved. When she encounters Spider, a man of deception, whose own childhood experiences are despicable, she is like a dirt dauber's nest with the dirt still wet, not yet secure in its foundation, its edges raw, unpolished and easily uprooted. She has never before met a man who calls himself Spider, but she knows spiders -the many legged kind. She knows how they weave webs to trap unsuspecting victims. But she believes Spider offers her the love no one else has, and her need is like that of someone in a dry desert with parched lips. His entrapment of her and the consequences she endures come long before a conjure woman, a painter, an old Indian man and a host of other unlikely characters change her expectations.