The story begins with and old women, Rukmani, looking back on her life. She was a young, and educated young girl who became a wife at the age of twelve to a landless tenant farmer named Nathan. Nathan loved and cared for Rukmani deeply, and he always treated her with respect and care. Before she was married Rukmani did not have to preform any sort of chores. But after she was married she had to learn many chores of not only a wife but a farmer as well. For the first year of their marriage Nathan and Rukmani produce a beautiful baby girl, her name is Ira. Also during that year the had great rice crops. Rukmani wants to conceive a baby boy for Nathan. But for six years she cant conceive. Rukmani goes to the village to visit her mother where she meets Kenny, a white doctor from the west. He helps Rukmani with her infertility difficulties, she does not tell Nathan. After Rukmani returns, she then has five sons. With each child born Nathan and Rukmani's family has less and less to eat and each person becomes more and more hungry. After a few years, the village they lived in was changed drastically, because a tannery was built near by. The two oldest sons of Nathan and Rukmani go to work at the tannery, and give all of their profits to their parents to help feed their family and help with the poverty that was overcoming them. But the two boys are then forbidden from working at the tannery anymore because the led a strike. Later, Rukmani and her family all start to endure troubled times. Their crops are all destroyed by a monsoon and Rukmani is forced to give up her savings to feed her beloved family. Nathan and Rukmani arrange a marraige for Ira, but he then leaves her because she was not providing him a son. Rukmani tries to have Kenny help Ira but by the time they Kenny began trying to help Ira. Ira's old husband had already found another women. Ira went into depression and soon after, Rukmani becomes pregnant and has her sixth and last son. This son, Kuti, lifts Ira out of her depression. Rukmani fourth son is killed by tannery guards for stealing a calfskin. Kuti begins suffering from hunger and Ira prostitutes herself to provide food for him. Ira then conceives a baby from her resulting to prostitution. The baby is an albino baby boy, who is loved deeply by his mother. Even after all this tragedy has taken place, even more events took place that tested Rukmani's patience. Nathan and Rukmani were forced to sell their land to the tannery, which they now hated. Then Nathan and Rukmani are forced to leave town to go to the city to see their son Murugan. But when they reach the city they come to find that Murugan has left the city and deserted his wife and child. Not to long after, they begin to miss home, but are too tired and have no will to travel back to their village. After selling some goods Rukmani finds Nathan at the temple violently ill. He later died in her arms. Rukmani endures many hardships in her life but she always stood her ground and was spiritually strong