A mismatched trio of male friends take off on the lam in Yoder's quietly moving first novel, set in rural Alabama.
Narrator Merit “Junior” Banks, a solitary young man and mostly mute observer of events who lives somewhere between Montgomery and Birmingham, has two friends: his adopted father, Gideon “Gid” Banks, a politically active potter who is growing increasingly fed up with Alabama misgovernment as well as his wife's indifference toward him; and an aged black man Junior has befriended in the woods, John Frederick White, who lives by Christian charity and speaks in prophetic pronouncements. In a fit of jealousy, Gid shoots his wife's lover in the backseat of her car, and out of a strange but necessary sense of solidarity, the three men set out together to elude the authorities, sleeping outside and catching rides and meals when they can. It becomes clear that Junior simply relishes the experience of bonding with the two older men, though he learns that Gid did not in fact kill the wife's lover; and as Gid broods on his crime, ailing John Frederick acts as the ethical compass along their aimless journey south. They are sheltered by strangers; in Birmingham, a young waitress recognizes them from the newspaper and harbors them secretly at her family's home. A romance with Merit develops, allowing him finally to become a fully fleshed character.
Framed around the Auburn-Alabama football season, the novel possesses a Faulknerian thrust, yet feels emotionally listless and lyrically deflated.