The Appalachian Mountains in Virginia is where the story takes place. Jennifer a young college student, goes to visit her deceased mother's home in Hoot Owl Holler. She is to do an oral history of her family for a college project. She winds up hearing the story of how her family is haunted.
The Cantrell family believe they have a curse on them, when it comes to relationships. They blame this on the earliest doomed relationship of the family. Almarine Cantrell falls in love with "Red" Emmy. His grandmother, Granny Younger, forces him to leave Emmy. Granny Younger believes that she is a witch. It is said that Emmy put a curse on Almarine for breaking her heart. The curse was on all of his descendants.
We find in the story, the journal of Richard. Richard is from a wealthy family. He comes to Hoot Owl Holler, hoping to find peace and spirituality. He goes to the local Pentecostal church and meets Dory Cantrell in town. He falls in love with Dory, as she does with him as well. They have a love affair, but her family finds out and takes her back home, forcing the two apart. Richard leaves without ever knowing that Dory is pregnant with twins. They both enter marriages that do not fulfill them. Dory gives birth to twin girls, one of which is Jennifer's mother. Dory ends up killing herself. Some believe her ghost still haunts the mountain.
Lee Smith writes a chilling tale of love and loss. She weaves supernatural themes along with religious overtures. It seems the whole Cantrell family is haunted. What are they haunted by? Some say it is the ghost of Dory. Some say it is the curse that was put on them by Emmy, so many years ago. The story leaves you wondering just how true some of these stories are. We have all heard them. Is the curse true or are the people just using that as an excuse for bad behavior?