Set in the Midwestern United States during the late 19th century, Jacob Witting, a widowed farmer who is still saddened by the death of his wife during childbirth several years earlier, finds that the task of taking care of his farm and two children, Anna and Caleb, is too difficult to handle alone. He writes an ad in the newspaper for a mail-order bride. Sarah Wheaton, from Maine, answers his ad and travels out to become his wife.
While Anna is initially apprehensive about Sarah as she still has memories of her late mother, Caleb is excited and deeply hopes that Sarah will stay. When Sarah arrives conditionally for one month, Anna notices that she is lonely and misses the sea. Stubborn and persistent, she gradually wins over Jacob with her insistence on learning and helping out with farm tasks.
The Wittings become attached to her, though Caleb constantly worries that their home is not enough for her and that she misses the sea. When she goes to town by wagon on her own, Anna tries to reassure Caleb that Sarah will return, though she secretly fears that Sarah will not. They are overjoyed when she returns by nightfall. She admits that while she misses the sea, she would miss them more if she left them.
Anna reveals that Jacob and Sarah married soon afterward.