The year is 1811. Having suffered a loss of faith, Thomas Keene, Congregational minister from New England, abandons the East and moves to Richland County on the Ohio frontier. The Tree of Life is Keene's journal: stories and jottings appear alongside accounting entries and poems, coarse jokes and sermons, woodcuts and maps. In this "Waste Book," Keene conveys his longing for a young widow, his fascination with John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed), and his resolve in the face of the growing enmity between his fellow settlers and the Delaware Indians. The Tree of Life reveals a man of intellect and passion as he confronts the raw country.