In 1931 Carbon Hill, a small Alabama coal-mining town, nine-year-old Tess Moore watches a woman shove the cover off the family well and toss in a baby without a word. For the Moore family, focused on helping anyone in need during the Great Depression, the apparent murder forces them to face the darker side of their community and question the motivations of family and friends. Backbreaking work keeps most of the townspeople busy from dawn to dusk, and racial tensions abound. For parents, it's a time when a better life for the children means sacrificing health, time, and every penny that can be saved. For a miner, returning home after work is a possibility, not a certainty. However, next to daily thoughts of death, exhausting work, and race are the lingering pleasures of sweet tea, feather beds, and lightning bugs yet to be caught.