The saga centers around Rosa. As the novel opens, Rosa is living with her abusive husband and four children. She has had eight children, four of whom died of a mysterious disease that caused chronic digestive problems and ultimately death by malnutrition. Two of the remaining children have similar symptoms. Her husband refuses to spend the money for specialized doctors. This same husband probably murdered Rosa's mother. Oh yes, the two healthy children were fathered by her childhood sweetheart and sometime lover Lars.
The author juggles the history and Rosa occasionally forgetting one or the other. For example, the sweet poetry of Rosa's lover sleeping on the sofa runs away from the plot with
Lars understandably didn't want to be with someone else's wife.This being the same Lars that has fathered two children with Rosa. By the end the Rosa and the history are pleasantly integrated as Rosa overcomes her obstacles and becomes a part of the post-prohibition prosperity on Sonoma Valley.