Charlie Gray and his wife Pam emigrate from England to South Africa, a country sinking under the scourge of apartheid, to start as an engineer in the gold mines. His life appears on the surface to be charmed, but he lives under the shadow of a terrifying instance of abuse in his childhood. Tragedies occur in his marriage and he is forced to leave. He moves, first to Nauru, then to Australia where his life begins to resemble that of the biblical character Job. Things happen to him, events beyond his control. He is powerless to stop them until he meets Emma, a distant cousin, and in a return to Scotland and the place where the story began he finally throws off the shackles of the past.