On May 12, 1924, a park forest ranger notices rocks out of place near the mouth of the Kilauea Volcano. On Sunday, May 18, the ground splits open - rocks, fire, and ash fill the sky, and those who chose not to evacuate are in a fight for their lives. Lucy Dillow, daughter of the local pastor, enjoys her days of ministering to Hawaii's friendly people and teaching their young in a simple one-room schoolhouse. When the order arrives to evacuate because of the uncertainty of the volcano, she decides to stay behind with her family in case they are needed, and to keep a journal of the volcano's activity.
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After the death of his wife two years before, Dr. Jesse Baxter wants only what is best for his son, whose behavior changed for the worst after his mother's long illness. He had high hopes that school would give his son something to focus on other than death. It seems not to be the case. His son is fascinated with anything to do with death, often stopping to examine dead animals on the side of the road. Jesse is at his wit's end and asks the lovely schoolteacher for help.