1871. At the farm of Samuel Hood and his daughter, Caroline, a mysterious flock of red birds has descended. Samuel, whose fame as a philosopher is waning, takes the birds' appearance as an omen that the time is ripe for his newest venture. He starts a school for young women, guiding their intellectual development as he has guided his daughter's. Despite Caroline's misgivings, Samuel's vision - revolutionary, as always; noble, as always; full of holes, as always - takes shape. It's not long before the students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: rashes, seizures, verbal tics, night wanderings. In desperate, the school turns to the ministering of a sinister physician - just as Caroline's body, too, begins its betrayal. As the girls' condition worsens, Caroline must confront the all-male, all-knowing authorities of her world, the ones who insist the voices of the sufferers are unreliable.