A native of Lython, Ga., Micah Winship left town at age 18, after a bitter breach with her father caused by her involvement in the civil rights movement. Twenty years later, she is a noted journalist, a mother and divorcee. At a low point in her career, just as her daughter has left to spend the summer in California, Mike hears from her sister DeeDee, who writes asking for help with their dying father. In a particularly vulnerable state, Mike goes home. Brittle and sharp-edged, repelled by DeeDee's transformation into a mountainous caricature of would-be gentility, unmoved by her father's battle to stop the Department of Transportation from building a highway through his parents' farm, the ""homeplace'' that has never meant much to her, she intends to stay only a few weeks. But she is caught up in a passionate affair with Bayard Sewell, a shining figure in the local political firmament whom she had loved as a girl. On a trip to the farm with her father and the Bible-quoting, rough-edged lawyer who is his only supporter, Mike begins to understand the old man's attachment to the land and reluctantly agrees to join the fight. In the process she finally plumbs the depths of her own anger and falseness, finding resources of compassion and strength.