In search of answers about her past, an aging professor makes her way to the Montana town that’s wrapped the key in a cast of colorful characters.
While she’s always been the sort of person who yearns for something, AJ Armstrong is finally ready to act on her desires when she leaves her college teaching job to pursue the very personal project of figuring out who her mother is. AJ hopes this quest will not only give her a sense of self, but also teach her what “AJ” literally stands for. Finding her way to Misfire, Montana, AJ rents a room that’s all but uninhabitable as she gets down to the task at hand, accidentally getting hired along the way at the local rag, the Sun-Tribune. Though many potential complications appear poised to begin at this point, Simon instead introduces a roll call of the town misfits, her loving characterizations of their folksy quirks overshadowing AJ’s purpose. Before long, AJ feels right at home in Misfire, even though it’s not clear whether she’ll ever learn her own origin story. Enter drama in the form of AJ’s adoptive parents, Bet and Chas, two drifters who can’t seem to let their daughter go even if they’ve barely shown an interest in her to date. As Bet and Chas make it clear to AJ’s chagrin that they’re here to stay, more of the past catches up with her. Her ex-husband and former colleague, Litton, arrives, supposedly to collaborate with her on a hush-hush history project but actually to make her life a living hell. In all the hubbub, AJ returns to her original purpose with renewed energy even if the answers she finds don’t give her the satisfaction she’d hoped for.
Happily, the third act exchanges Simon’s focus on obfuscating tangents and context-free character studies for a renewed interest in the plot of this uneven debut.