Henry and Margaret Oades and their family travel to New Zealand from London for an accounting job with the local government. Henry is ready for the adventure, but Margaret is not sure. When they arrive they find the conditions are worse than they thought. She makes friends with another England transplant, Mim, who son is close to her son John's age.
One night the local tribal people, the Maori, kidnap Margaret and her children from their home. They kill Mim and set Margaret & Henry's home on fire. Henry returns home to find an empty home and a charred body which he can't identify. Henry and Mim's husband search and search for them but are unable to locate Margaret and the children. Henry gets into an accident and spends some time in the hospital.
Henry returns to work but has a hard time focusing on office work. He finally accepts that his family is dead and decides to leave on a ship bound for California. On the ship he befriends another passenger who offers him a job on his uncle's farm. Henry feels that outdoor type work will be a better fit and learns how to milk a cow. Henry turns out to be a natural at the farm work and ends up taking over the farm when the uncle dies.
When a fire in town breaks out, Henry helps rescue a pregnant woman from it - Nancy. Nancy looses her husband in the fire, but gains a child the same day. Henry continues to visit to her everyday after that baby is born. One day he offers her a home and place for her baby and she accepts. They marry.
Meanwhile Margaret and her children have been "adapting" to living with the Maori. She has become a lucky charm for the expecting mothers. One day they are just let go. John leads them back to town where they find out that Henry has left. They work on a ship in order to pay their way to California. Once they arrive there they inquire about where Henry lives. Nancy opens the door and is shocked to find out that Henry's first wife - Margaret and their children are alive.
Henry and each of his wives are arrested separately and charged with having a bigamist relationship. Each time their lawyer is able to find a loophole and get them off. In the meantime Nancy and Margaret convince Henry they need to move to a different town more tolerable of their situation so that they can all live together in one house.
The book is narrated from the perspectives of Nancy and Margaret. It is rumored that a California newspaper ran this story as a hoax.