It is 1918 Trinidad. Latchmin is ten, and keen on school, instead of working in the cane field, or planting rice.
She comes home from school one day to find that her parents have arranged a marriage for her. This breaks the promise her mother made to her - that she can stay at school and finish her education. The boy they've chosen is a complete stranger, and the marriage is due to take place within a year. Latchmin is horrified that her mother, who believes herself to be a modern woman in that new complex environment, is reverting to traditions, and what their ancestors have brought from India. Hindu customs appear to take over, because the religion is strong. It is unlucky for a girl to start puberty whilst still at home. That brings fear to the family.
Latchmin struggles to find a way out of it, helped by her friend, Sumati, who is a little older. But things get worse. They are still children and not mature enough to solve the problem to their satisfaction on their own. Out of her depth, Latchmin struggles to be sensible, until she is blamed for Sumati's behaviour and disappearance. She is upset, but cannot give up now.