Happy in her small 1850s world of family, friends, and a likely suitor, 16-year-old Damaris is shattered when her father converts to the Shaker religion and decides to move the family to the True Believers' New Lebanon community. Damaris hopes that the news of her imminent departure will elicit an early proposal from Matthew, but he holds back (believing, it turns out much later, that she wants to leave), and Damaris, crushed, goes off in a huff. The other members of her family adjust well to the Shakers' sexually segregated community, but Damaris, clearly not cut out for the life, becomes attached to a gentle young man--whom she loses at last to the elders' determined pressure against his announced plan to leave and marry her. This second disappointment sends Damaris running off to her old community--and, shortly, into the arms of a still loving Matthew. Based on a willful misunderstanding, this is the very ordinary romance of a very ordinary girl-given some interest and dimension by the everyday details and (to Damaris) oppressive atmosphere of Shaker living.