Steeped in traditional beliefs, Paraiti uses old ways to heal the sick and teach children of Te Urewera. She is celebrated in her community, but traditional healing has been made illegal. Paraiti is approached by Maraea, a servant, who begs her to tend to her pregnant mistress, Rebecca Vickers.
Beautiful and deathly ill, she asks Paraiti to rid her of the child. Paraiti leaves, telling the pair that healing is about giving life, not taking it away. However, a sequence of events changes her mind. During her stay at the Vickers' Paraiti becomes annoyed with the servant Maraea - why is she, another Maori woman, insistent on disregarding her culture?
As Paraiti continues to treat Rebecca, she discovers a shocking revelation and the three women become players in a clash of beliefs, deception and ultimate salvation.