Pine Center, northern Minnesota, the home of the Thorsons, is the scene of their grim winter whose note is set by the hopeless suicide of one of them. Verne, son of Bertha and Virgil, learns too little too late and kills himself, leaving the care of their insane sister to his young brother Rupert, who slowly becomes aware of the viciousness of his parents and whose determination is hardened into leaving them. His uncle, Arnie, is forced to leave town for fear the scandal of his raping a minor will become known, and it is to his wife, Phoebe, that Rupert turns. Through the days of preparations for Verne's funeral and the cumulative effect of Arnie's decision to escape, there is the recall of the adults' past lives, the motivation of their present actions, the violence hidden behind the small town conformity. A strong dose of humanity tortured by frustrations, subconscious drives, this is not for the reader seeking entertainment only nor for those demanding subtlety and discrimination.