Twelve-year-old slave, Pascal, is reunited with his runaway brother, Gideon, who brings news that all slaves have been freed.
Pascal, Gideon, and eight-year-old Nelly flee their master's plantation, searching for the forty acres and a mule General Sherman has promised the ex-slaves. En route to Georgia, they meet poor white travelers, bigoted ne'er-do-wells, and night riders.
During this six months of the Reconstruction, the children and their new friends claim their promised land, plant crops on it, and attend school. But all the while, they fear retaliation by resentful white Southerners. Finally, the family is evicted from their farm, Green Gloryland. As the story unfolds, each character seeks and amends individual definitions of freedom.