A working-class Scottish family strives to survive personal tragedy and financial devastation during the Great Depression. When her mother unexpectedly dies and her father loses his job, gifted and intelligent 17-year-old Alison Burnside expects to forgo her dreams of obtaining a medical degree in order to help support her struggling family. Before she has a chance to leave school, however, her favorite teacher and her four older brothers intervene on her behalf. Jim Abbott becomes Alison's tutor, her mentor, and, eventually, her love interest, while her brothers pledge to set aside a large share of their meager wages for her schooling. As Alison blossoms intellectually and emotionally, her father and her brothers pursue new employment opportunities and romantic interests of their own. A bittersweet portrait of a realistically flawed family banding together out of a sense of love, loyalty, and necessity in a heartfelt effort to overcome poverty and misfortune.