Earth opens with 13-year-old Pearl Swinton knee-deep in Missouri top soil, weeding the garden with her mother. An abrupt vision brings apparitions of the land blistering and ripping open, of the Earth’s destruction. "Not again," her mother cries. "You were doing so well. " Again? The young girl has no memory of having visions before.
Pearl has a deep connection to the land and sees every living being as herself, every “dog, deer, calf. Sassafras, cottonweed, elm”. Set in rural Missouri in the 1970s, Earth mixes the gritty and the mystical. The bloody reality of subsistence farming and rural poverty – the hunting, gutting, plucking, the endless labor – co-exist with apocalyptic visions.
Pearl's mysticism terrifies her hard-working mother and brutal father. And behind it all, there is Meghan, Pearl's missing half-sister, who long ago ran away, but whose presence still haunts them all.
Pearl discovers her Aunt Nadine also has visions, a woman who is the “family shame, in and out of the nuthouse." She sneaks away to bicycle hundreds of miles across the wild and vast Missouri landscape to find her. The lonely and isolated Nadine cannot help her, but while there, Pearl finds an address for Meghan. She sneaks away again to bicylce hundreds of miles to the big city to find her sister.
She uncovers a lot that she'd rather not know on this journey. After her father finds her and brings her back home, things go from bad to worse. He is killed in a hunting accident, her mother sinks into depression and Pearl's visions get worse.
Meghan's reappearance in their lives only puts things over an edge, and Pearl has a vision while driving and ends up in the hospital and ultimately in a psych ward.
In the end, Pearl must escape from a world that labels her as crazy, uproot her life and sever herself from the only thing she's ever really loved -- the earth.
She must learn to fly.