Laura Dennis lives with Lena Abernathy in Harrison, Texas. Her mother left Harrison years ago, after her father killed his cousin then died when Laura was very young. Writing to her mother, who now lives in far away South Dakota, Laura is convinced that once her mother realizes how grown up and ready for the world Laura is, she will want Laura to visit, or better yet, come live with her. Laura's uncle comes to visit once in a while, supplying the much needed money for Laura's upbringing and trying to care the best he can though he really doesn't want to be a big part of her life. Laura loves her home in Harrison and the woman who cares for her, but is restless. A high school senior, she is discovering herself, her burgeoning sexuality and wondering about life ahead; all these things are confusing and exciting. A polite, sweet girl, Laura also hears stories about her family's past: why her mother left and her father killed a man. She discovers an acquaintance across the street, Velma, is really a distant cousin, which both intrigues and repels her as Velma is a dependent, sometimes raving alcoholic, yet she may know the history of her family no one else will tell her. Over the course of several weeks, while Laura waits for an answer from her mother, she learns of her mother's infidelities and her father's jealousies. Parallel lives and stories also fill Laura's world as she begins dating Stewart, who abruptly drops her to go to visit his old girlfriend who has moved to Atlanta. Another classmate, Harvey, seems also involved with that girl when he is accused of making her pregnant; the reason she moved away. Denying he is the father and revealing any number of the boys could have been, he is forbidden out of the house since the girl's father has threatened to kill him. A quiet, sensitive boy, Harvey has expressed interest in Laura and wanted to ask her to the school dance. He is forbidden to do so, not because of past indiscretions or present threats, but because, as finally revealed to him by his adoptive parents, he is Laura's half-brother by her mother and her father's cousin, the one her father killed. Shaken by all that's happened to him Harvey disobeys his parents and takes a walk in town. In front of the movie house he is shot and killed by the pregnant girl's father. Laura hears the news about Harvey's death and her connection to him, just after she receives a letter from her mother saying she wants nothing to do with her. Feeling she lost her mother, and a brother she never knew well, Laura is devastated. Yet, she tries to find something in the day to sustain her. She accepts what help she can get from those who love her through what is now a crossroads in her young, now saddened life.
A haunting tale of family devotions, relationships and their loves and denials, life and death.. "The more one explores Foote's work, the more one sees his methods and gets on nodding terms with his people, the more one appreciates its rich and uniquely American texture." —NY Post. "…Foote vividly recreates a particular world—the small Texan town and its quirky inhabitants. And here, too, is his genius for creating everyday language. No one is more capable of turning life into art and art into life, by way of dialogue." —BackStage.