Petroleum is a small town set somewhere in the western plains. The town is in the process of dying because of a dreadful accident in the once-thriving grain elevator, which killed a promising young man and tainted his younger brother, who is blamed for the tragedy.

Now the elevator is closed, the trains don’t stop there, and the few residents left cling to their old ways and resentments. Mary Crampton was a very young child at the time of the accident; now she is her father’s business partner in the family funeral home, embalming the town’s dead.

When younger brother returns to town to care for his dying mother, he and Mary strike up an unlikely friendship that sets her on a new path.