Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe - just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Born with an angry purple blotch that stains her white skin, Laurel is shunned by the insular, superstitious locals. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin. Then it happens - a mysterious stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow-jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel's heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known. But Walter harbors a dark secret that could destroy everything - and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, a petty and ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage among those with bitter hearts and small minds. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them. Building to a powerful end, this lyrical, heart-rending tale, as mesmerizing as the brilliant Serena, shows once again this masterful novelist at the height of his powers.