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A blend of Scottish immigrants and Native American Mi'kmaq, the Rare family settle in the small coastal village of Scot's Bay in Nova Scotia. The town and its people make their living from the sea. Dora, the first girl child born to the Rare family in five generations, comes into the world with a caul over her face that many say is an omen. Dora becomes something of an outcast, and because like things attract, she is drawn to old Miss Babineau, the midwife of those parts. Miss Babineau takes Dora on as an apprentice, teaching her everything she knows about pregnancy, childbirth, infertility, healing, and caring. Dora's farmhouse in the village, given to her when she marries, is called "The Birth House," where many young girls and women over the years come for help and healing.