Stockard Griffin awakes from a nightmare to find that her Uncle Abe has committed suicide, causing her to move from Sefer Farm, the family's retreat just outside of Nashville, to New York City. Later she attends Stanford, and finally settles in Boulder, where her decisions put her at odds with her grandmother's upbringing. Stockard's grandmother is the legendary Margaret Griffin, who discovered as a child that the Old South still saw her as 'baseborn.' There was thing she could do about it, and once she realized it, she found in herself something more independent and fierce. Margaret Griffin rescues the family lumber business in 1920s Tennessee using the native wits that a Vassar veneer cant suppress. She emerges as the ruthlessly capable protector of her family. Fifty years later Stockard must sift through her grandmother's actions as a businesswoman and a wife. It is a strange and particular obedience that allows her to reconcile the family's past with what lies ahead.