A young girl growing up in small-town segregated Mississippi in the 1960s, Maddy Culpepper's life is calm and ordinary. In spite of being raised in a working poor family, she has lived an insular life in a family held together by the strength and wits of her mother. But life begins to crumble when her mother abandons the home to tend to her youngest child, an infant who is hospitalized. Maddy and her three young brothers are left in the care of their father, a veteran possessed by a tragic family secret. As he slides into an alcohol-soaked world of guilt and shame, Maddy must take on responsibilities no child should face and becomes a force to contend with in her own right.