Jogging outside the town of Goddard, New Hampshire, Naomi Roth finds the body of a newborn baby girl floating facedown in the Sabbathday River. News of the dead child spreads quickly through Goddard, and Naomi - an aging idealist, a former VISTA volunteer, and the founder of a women's quilting cooperative - is shocked when the community swiftly, implausibly fingers Heather Pratt, a young single mother notorious for her affair with a married man, as the prime suspect. It comes as an even greater shock when, after a long interrogation behind closed doors, Heather confesses to the crime. Moved and angered by Heather's plight - and increasingly isolated in conservative Goddard - Naomi engages the help of Judith Friedman, a lawyer and fellow "flatlander, " to defend the young woman. But when the truth at the heart of this astonishing case - and the body of a second baby - comes to light, it is Naomi who must confront how little she has understood her town, her friend, and herself.