Hoffman writes a thoroughly compelling work of historical fiction. It is the story of Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzarro who is born in the early 1800’s in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, the only child of a Jewish merchant and his unhappy wife. Headstrong and opinionated, Rachel clashes with her family as well as the small, rigid Jewish community. Her first marriage is a business transaction; the second is the love of her life and among her children from this marriage is Camille Pissarro, the impressionistic painter(he changed the spelling of his name to sound more French). Alice Hoffman describes St. Thomas as a lush tropical island that is teeming with secrets, and Rachel, as she grows older, becomes aware of how these secrets destroy more than protect.