While recovering from breast cancer, journalist Jeneva Leopold seeks solitude and healing at her uncle's idle gold mine in the sagebrush desert of Eastern Oregon. Hiking the rocky ridges, swimming in the old mining pond, and ignoring the outside world save for occasional letters, Jeneva gains strength and a new will to live. As her interest in life returns, so do Jeneva's journalistic habits. And though the locals are at first disturbed by her questions, she soon gets to know a young woman rancher, various miners, a quirky old artifact hunter, and an itinerant priest and medieval scholar. She learns the inside story on living in the harsh landscape of sagebrush and coyotes and how the Old West is changing under new economics and regulation. But the Oregon desert is also a place of secrets. The more Jeneva talks with the locals, the more she wonders about her uncle's mysterious disappearance and why he and her mother stopped talking so many years ago.
Then the death of a young miner sends Jeneva on a quest for answers, leading her to an elderly woman artist who lives in a converted chicken house, a tongue-tied funeral home owner, and a swashbuckling sheriff with rule-bending tendencies. What she finally uncovers shocks the region and nearly claims her life.