David Halpert returns to his native city and finds a new life and a modicum of happiness, but along the way he also confronts heartbreak and loss.
Owing to the insistence of his father, Halpert moves from Denver back to Detroit. At first he comes to help his father take care of his increasingly dementia-tormented mother, but he’s also dealing with the loss of his son Cory four years before and the subsequent breakup of his marriage. Even though in the back of his mind Halpert feels that “only the demented move to Detroit,” he finds that Motor City is in his blood, for it’s always been the locus of his childhood, friends and family. Although Halpert finds work as a lawyer, dealing primarily in wills and trusts, Lasser is far more interested in Halpert’s personal life. Halpert discovers that Natalie, a girl he had dated in high school, and her half-brother Dirk had both been murdered just a few days before he arrived home. Lasser presents extended flashbacks in which we get to know Natalie and Dirk, and because they have the same mother but fathers of different races, Lasser also uses the two siblings to confront racial issues. Dirk’s a straight arrow, an FBI agent involved in undercover drug work, and he serves as a surrogate father to Marlon, son of Dirk’s best friend Everett, who’s dying of cancer. At 13, Marlon smokes weed and definitely could use a moral compass. He’s also mixing with unsavory types who might be involved in the killing of Natalie and Dirk. Halpert hooks up with Carolyn, a sister of the murder victims, who becomes pregnant and decides to leave her husband for Halpert.
Lasser’s setting ranges from the dingy ’hood to the ritzy ’burbs, so by the end we get to know the city almost as intimately as we know the characters.