Janie returns back to Eatonville, and her old friends want to know where she's been. She's now in her 40's, and she's been married 3 times. She tells her story to her friend Pheoby. Janie was first married off to an older man named Logan Killicks by her grandmother, but wasn't happy with him. Later on she meets and runs off with a man named Joe Starks who takes her to a new African American town called Eatonville where he buys land and becomes the mayor.
Eventually, Janie gets angry at Joe's insistence on keeping her separated from the townspeople in Eatonville that she lashes out at him and he strikes her across the face. Their relationship is fractured, and Joe grows ill and dies. Janie inherits his wealth, and meets a younger man named Tea Cake. Janie falls in love with him and they later on get married, and move to the Everglades.
Janie finds happiness with Tea Cake in their marriage, despite an initial rocky start. However, disaster strikes a hurricane that forces the evacuation of the Everglades. At first Tea Cake refused to leave, but then seeing the lake start to flood, him and Janie join the others in running ti higher ground. Janie ends up in the water and grabs onto a cow with a dog on its back. The dog tries to attack her, and Tea Cake intervenes and then gets bitten in the arm by the dog which is rabid.
Janie and Tea Cake return to the Everglades to help with the post hurricane cleanup. Tea Cake gets ill a few weeks later and refuses to eat or drink. The doctor says he has rabies. Tea Cake finds out that Mrs. Turners brother is back in town and becomes suspicious that Janie is seeing him. The jealousy gets way out of hand causing the disease to take over his brain, so he pulls out a pistol on Janie so in defense Janie shoots him with a rifle.
Janie is put on trial for tea Cakes murder; while most or the black community was against her, the white women took her side. Janie hold an elaborate funeral for Tea Cake. Janie eventually returns to Eatonville, where she is telling her story to Pheoby. Pheoby promises curtail nasty talk about Janie in the town. Janie finally is at peace because of the love she found with Tea Cake.