In 1818, on the Scottish peninsular of Glenelg, the death of the clan chieftain marks the end of a way of life. With the new chieftain comes the cruelty of the Highland Clearances.
The Rose family is transported to Australia where they witness the emergence of a self-governing country from a convict colony. The MacCrimmons are among hopeful immigrants travelling by raft down the Ohio River to settle in far-off lands. Meanwhile, in Upper Canada, the Camerons become part of a vast fur-trading empire, experiencing honour, tragedy and contempt as past deeds catch up with them.
The story of each family sweeps into the new century, tracing the lives of the men who created civilisation out of chaos and the women who stood by them.