In 1959, Paul Milliron as superintendent of schools for Montana is charged with closing down the state's rural one-room schoolhouses because they no longer are relevant in the age of Sputnik. He is reminiscing about the autumn of 1909 in Marias Coulee Montana when his widowed father decided it was time for their all-male household to get a housekeeper. On the basis of an advertisement proclaiming "can't cook but doesn't bite," he hires Rose all the way from Minneapolis. When she steps off the train, she is unexpectedly accompanied by her brother Morrie who also is hoping to find some kind of work. Seems Rose and Morrie were in the leather trade and fell on some hard times. Rose brings feminine order to the Milliron household although as promised she steadfastly refuses to tackle the cooking. When the teacher in the Marias Coulee one-room schoolhouse runs off with a traveling preacher, Morrie takes on the educational responsibilities. He quickly rises to the task with his encyclopedic knowledge, even finding time to tutor Paul in Latin and showcase the subject astronomy with the arrival of Halley's Comet. Throughout the book, the reader is led to believe there is something suspicious about Rose and Morrie's past, and it falls to Paul to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Beautifully written, the author's love of language and classical education is voiced in Morrie's classroom antics and Paul's scholarship.