Selina Peake DeJong decides to become a school teacher in America's Dutch farming country after her father passes away. She encourages the son of a farmer named Roelf to follow his interests, which include the arts, not farming. Roelf follows her advice and becomes a famous sculptor in France. Eventually, Selina marries a local Dutch farmer and has a son, Dirk, whom she nicknames "So Big."
Sadly, Selina's husband passes away and she is forced to take over the farm work with her son. Dirk grows up to become an architect, but is more interested in making money than designing buildings. Dirk's sweetheart, Dalllas, an acclaimed artist, tries to convince him there is more to life than money. Roelf soon falls for Dallas as he returns to visit Selina on the farm, setting the stage for a love triangle to decide the importance of fortune versus the love of art.
Inspired by the life of Antje Paarlberg in the Dutch community of South Holland, Illinois, this 1925 Pulitzer Prize winning novel is Edna Ferber's best known work. It has been turned into a number of film adaptations, including one starring Bette Davis in the leading role.