A prosperous, but dissatisfied father of three daughters, St. John (Singe) Gates drives from his home in Richmond to Pocosin, the home of his birth, on the edge of the Georgia swampland, and, in a series of flashbacks, a story of the contemporary south unfolds. During his journey, Singe, with his beautiful, but mentally retarded, youngest daughter, stops first at the fire- ravished remains of Winyah Baroney. Here he came as a youngster with his mother to live with his cousin Kirtley's family and fell deeply in love with Miranda, the girl next door who finally rejected him and married Kirtley. Haunted by these memories, Singe arrives at Pocosin, where his father, Tamerlane Gates, lives with Wemyss, the illegitimate son of the woman whom Tamerlane loved, but never married. Singe's increasing awareness of himself in relation to the family traditions and complexities into which he was born forms the remainder of the plot, as he finds Miranda, his first love, now a divorcee with three sons. Heavily interspersed with lavish descriptions of southern scenery, cookery, and historical anecdotes, the narratives of the Gates family are frequently weighted down with awkward literary quotations from Henry James, Stephen Crame, Abe Lincoln, and Walt Whitman, and even the general reader may find all of this a bit tedious.