These are some of the main events in the story -
- Sara Louise and Caroline Bradshaw are born. Caroline is sickly and all the attention is given to her, while her sister is most often forgotten. Caroline grows up sunny, pampered, and beautiful, while Sara Louise is plain, dark, and resentful.
- Sara Louise spends her summers progging for crabs with her friend Call.
- Captain Hiram Wallace arrives on Rass Island. He befriends Sara Louise and Call, developing a special rapport with Call.
- Sara Louise, who dreams of being a songwriter, submits lyrics to "Lyrics Unlimited" hoping for publication. She discovers the company does not value her submission, but only wants her money.
- Sara Louise finds Auntie Trudy Braxton unconscious in her home, with her many cats swarming around her. The Captain, who has known Trudy for a long time, takes her to the hospital.
- A hurricane strikes the Island, and the Captain's house is destroyed. He stays with the Bradshaws for a few days. Sara Louise falls in love with him.
- The Captain moves into Trudy's house and marries her when she gets out of the hospital. Trudy dies a short time later.
- The Captain uses Trudy's money to send Caroline to school in Baltimore. Sara Louise is devastated that once again she has been overlooked.
- Caroline leaves for school. Call leaves for the navy. Sara Louise is surprised to notice Call has grown up. She hopes when he returns, they might start a relationship.
- Call returns a grown man and announces his engagement to Caroline.
- The Captain is invited to the Bradshaws for Christmas dinner. He tells Sara Louise that she was never meant to stay on the Island. He challenges her to make her own dreams come true.
- After talking with her mother, Sara Louise realizes that the only thing holding her on the Island is her own fear. She is gratified and finally at peace when her mother tells her that when she leaves, the family will miss her more than they miss Caroline. Her mother's words make Sara Louise see that even though she has always lived in her sister's shadow, she is and has been deeply loved and valued.
- Sara Louise attends the University of Maryland on a scholarship. She becomes a doctor and goes to work in Appalachia.
- Sara Louise meets Joseph Wojtkiewicz and marries him. The two have a son whom she names Truitt, after her own father.