The book opens with Annabelle, an 40-something academic in Melbourne, jolted out of her comfortable existence by a note from her husband explaining that his absence was caused by an affair with a student. She immediately flees to the area where she grew up, the bush area around Townsville in the north country. Over the course of the book she discovers and moves into an alien world. Her guide is Bo Rennie, whose grandmother was a beautiful aboriginal woman who married a white man.
Bo Rennie worked on the ranch, or I should say, station, her dad owned, rounding up the cattle in the scrub. He remembers her from childhood; his grandmother and her mother became friends for a time. Bo and Annabel work together identifying sites of importance to aboriginal culture for a company run by a friend of hers. This work involves driving around in the bush, camping out, drinking lots of tea made in a billy. They are accompanied by a teenage brother and sister; the brother is huge, eats prodigious amounts of food, listens to pounding rock music in his truck, and hardly ever speaks. For reasons that are not clear, he is much revered.
Annabelle's transition into Bo's world encounters a setback when they visit the ancient Aunty Panya, a contemporary of Bo's much revered grandmother. Aunty Panya who lives in horridly squalid conditions angrily denounces Bo for bringing Annabelle to her house. She tells the story of Annabelle's grandfather and another planter who massacred aboriginal women and children while she and Bo's grandmother watched, hidden in a bull carcass. She says the whites want to forget the murderous ways of their ancestors, and they will never give back the land. She believes he is not fit to go to the sacred site (the Stone Country) and that Annabelle's accompanying him would just be robbing them further. Bo is sobered and pained by her anger, but does not share it. Annabelle and Bo plan to continue to find their way together, despite the horrors of the past.