After years of following the harvests in a battered station wagon, James Earl brings his vapid wife Mae and a passel of children home to the tobacco farm his younger brother inherited. The oldest girl, Stella, is lean, smart, quick to settle in to her first real house, and quick to latch on to dumb Rodney Biggers and his mother's blue Impala. Then Mae is struck by lightning in a tobacco barn; Rodney's quiet but dogged rival, Toby, is beaten within an inch of his life; and James Earl begins to court a spinster storekeeper. Soon Stella is headed for a new, normal existence of nylon curtains, domestic happiness, and the friendship of true-hearted, college-bound Toby. Bridgers is at home with the regional idiom and dirt-poor life choices of her characters. But while her outwardly inarticulate cast entertains heady, poetic thoughts that evoke Southern gothic, the plot--especially the convenient removal of Mae and the instant romance between James Earl and his lonely, well-fixed bride-veers toward soap opera. A facile imitation, but one that retains some of the peculiar fascination of its models.