When Cyril Conroy buys the Dutch House, he means it as a surprise for his wife, Elna. More glass than brick, with marble floors, gilt ceiling, and even a ballroom, their move from a tiny New York City apartment to this enormous home in Philadelphia is jarring for humble Elna. Bought from the Vanhoebeeks after their bankruptcy, the house also comes with their servants and all of their wordly possessions. Elna tries to adjust as the children, Maeve and Danny, marvel at their new life, but her selflessness and desire to help the neediest of society contradicts her new luxurious lifestyle. She begins to disappear, sometimes for weeks at a time, until one day she leaves for India and doesn’t return.