Allie Buckley and Sarah Rooney have known each other since their Dublin childhood in the mid-19th century. Allie, reasonably well off, dislikes her domineering mother and finds her downtrodden father irritating. Sarah, from the slums, works with her mother Bess as a servant for the Buckleys, though it does nothing to spoil the girls' friendship. Sarah falls in love with a soldier from the barracks, just as Allie realises that her mother wants to marry her off to Maurice McDermott, a rich family friend. Allie is mildly infatuated with Dr Daniel Casey, but has already decided she wants to become a doctor.
Grief-stricken by the death of her 11-year-old sister Mary Ann from pneumonia, Sarah discovers she is carrying the child of her soldier lover, Jimmy Vance, and decides she should terminate the pregnancy. She changes her mind after Mary Ann appears to her in a dream and says she would have been an aunt to the baby if she had lived.
When her condition becomes obvious, her angry father throws her out, and she and her mother are sacked from the Buckleys' household. Allie leaves home as well, and they join a community of outcast women, the Wrens of the Curragh, living rough on the outskirts of the army camp near Dublin. Allie becomes their doctor because of her medical knowledge and nursing skills, though most of the women resent the well-spoken young girl who must be too good for them. Sarah has a son, and is reunited with Jimmy whom she vows to marry. Daniel reappears, and another twist of fate makes Allie and Sarah consider a new life in the United States – but yet another unforeseen event alters their plans.
The review of this Book prepared by John Van der Kiste