Once upon atime, There was a girl named Thea Kronborg. Agifted Swedish immigrant girls Sisyphean struggleto realise her talents as an opera singer, in a petty-bourgeois Midwestern society where womenssinging is supposed to be limited to church. She was striving to be an artist despite the struggles in life. Years later, she goes to the Kohlers for her piano lesson with Wunsch.
Before Christmas, Thea plays the piano at a concert but the town paperpraises her rival Lily which makes Thea angry. After Christmas, Thea goes to the Kohlers for another lesson, whereWunsch tells her about a Spanish opera singer who could sing an alto partof Christoph Gluck.
In Chicago, Thea moves close to the parishof a Swedish Reformed Church withtwo German women; she also sings in the choir andin funerals for a stipend, and takes piano lessons withMr. Harsanyi. Later, he meets with the conductor ofthe Chicago Orchestra and asks him who is the bestvoice teacher in the area and the conductor tells himthat it is Madison Bowers. He then parts withThea, explaining that her voice is her true artisticgift, not her playing. After several weeks of singinglessons, she takes a train back to Moonstone and sheappears to have grown a lot.
Back in Chicago, Thea keeps moving from one hometo another. And then she meets Fred Ottenburg, a rich youngman. He takes her to meet the Nathanmeyers, a richfamily, and they like her well enough to give her a job singingin a show that they are having. Dr. Archie, a family friend of Thea’s, goes to Denver to look over some silver investments. He receives a telegram from Thea summoning him to New York City. Thea ponders on the futility of her ambition, but comes to the conclusion that it is worth giving it a shot.
Ten years later, Dr. Archie has moved to Denver after his mininginvestments went up and his wife has died. Archie attends Theas operaticperformance at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City and laterhe talks to her at her hotel, they meet again at four the next day. Later theymeet again with Fred; she performs the end of an opera at the last minutebut performs very well. Thea then takes the time to talk both to Archie andFred about what she has been up to.
Finally, she gives another performance and Harsanyi is inthe audience, who is overwhelmed by her performance. The novelends with Tillie, the only remaining Kronborg who still lives inMoonstone.