1938 is a tumultuous year in the small Trinidadian island of El Caracol. In the sultry heat of the summer a young orphan, Theo, is sent to live with the island's doctor, Vincent Metivier. The doctor knows little of Theo's past only that it has been troubled and that he now needs love and attention. Yet Theo is not the only one who needs Vincent's attention. The island is rife with leprosy. Together with Sister Weil, Vincent tries to educate the population about this most taboo of diseases. With war in Europe looming and a feeling of civil unrest building in Trinidad, the staggering beauty of the island is overshadowed by human discord.