Instead of inheriting her maternal grandmothe's fair skin, Kathie Liedeman is born as dark as her Cape Coloured father, a social disaster in the eyes of her mother and near-white grandmother, Mrs Fraser. When Kathie's new baby sister Stella is born as light skinned as Mrs Fraser, the two women rejoice; nothing is going to stop them propelling Stella into Cape Town's white world, where she will reap all the rewards of this privileged status. The innocent young Kathie adores her little sister but has no idea how the birth of Stella will deeply affect everyone in her father's household. Marginalised by her mother and grandmother, Kathie grows closer to her father. Enraged by his mother-in-law's false gentility and manipulation of his family, he is driven to drink. Kathie is devastated by his sudden accidental death and feels more and more alone. But only when Stella is sent to a white school does she learn with a terrible sense of shock, that she is 'different' from Stella.
While Stella strives to join the white world, Kathie throws herself into her studies, though she never abandons her sister, whose painfully convoluted life is finally intertwined with her own in a most unexpected way. Kathie's life changes when she meets Paul Mangena, a young black lawyer from the Eastern Province. Drawn into a world of enlightenment, she shares Paul's utopian dream of a South Africa in which everyone will have the opportunity to live as equals. Though bolstered by the hope, the joy, and the intense love they have for each other, their path is never smooth. They are cruelly opposed by the unyielding forces of the times, but in spite of these Kathie remains undaunted. Even as the final cataclysmic event overwhelms her, she declares, "The future is ours!".