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Nhamo thinks she has found land and is delighted—but quickly realizes it's only another larger island. Something pokes a hole in her boat as she tries to leave, confining her to the island. She makes herself a shelter and finds food before beginning work on a new boat. A scorpion bite leaves her nearly dead, but she survives to see the new dry season. Lonely, she begins to bond with the nearby baboons, who start to accept her as one of their own. She discovers that, to her great horror, a leopard lives on the island—an animal she has feared since she learned one killed her mother.

As the rainy season approaches, Nhamo realizes that her window of opportunity to leave the island is quickly closing; the water will be impossible to navigate once the weather turns. She finds a way to patch her old boat and sets out. She meets up with fellow travelers along the river, who tell her that she won't be able to cross the border to Zimbabwe in the water; the patrols will stop her. A woman tells her that there is a path free of land mines, so Nhamo abandons her leaking boat and makes the attempt. After watching a buffalo trip a mine and explode, her confidence is shaken. Shortly thereafter, however, she realizes that she can follow the steps of the large elephants who have passed this way before her.

Nhamo makes it across the mines and meets a scientist researching tsetse flies. Impressed by the woman's likeness to the mother Nhamo always imagined, she calls her "mother." The scientists nurse Nhamo back to health, educate her, and recruit her help. They recognize her obvious intelligence and plan to send her to school. They find that her father is dead, but that his brother Industry is still alive and wealthy. Though Industry and his wife are reluctant to welcome her (thinking she is lying about being their niece), her description of the spiritual aspects of her journey convinces her grandfather that she is his granddaughter. Industry takes her in and sends her to school with her cousins.

Though her family tolerates her, the only love and recognition she receives come from the scientists. Dr. van Heerden reveals that he is keeping her gold in trust for her (she is happy to learn it has not been taken as she thought). Though she would like to go visit her family—whose letters she has received—she is advised against returning to reawaken fears about her father's victim's spirit (and perhaps face the consequences herself). As the story ends, Nhamo's future is bright, though she has a way to go yet.