Well, for one, the main character's name is Joseph in both the book and the movie. Joseph in both movies received a blessing from his dying father and has a connection to the land...feeling that the land is what makes a man who he is.
In the book, the entire story takes place in the United States with emphasis on California where Joseph stakes his claim.
In the movie, the action begins in Ireland, where Joseph and his family lose their land due to inability to pay the landlord's rent. Joseph takes passage to America, and after many trials and tribulations, he does make it out west to declare his claim on the land he so desperately wants and needs.