September 1952. The cotton is almost ready in the fields of Arkansas. The harvest will soon begin. Luke Chandler is a seven-year-old who lives with his family in a small, unpainted house on rented land. In the next six weeks, the Chandlers and a hired band of hill people and Mexicans must bring in the cotton that is their livelihood and the guarantee of their survival on the land. Soon heat, rain, fatigue, a killing and the unravelling of a family secret threaten to destroy the Chandlers' hopes and will transport Luke abruptly from childhood innocence to adult experience.