Before he was born, his mother, known in Canaan as “The Widow”, and Miss Edna, their housekeeper, moved to Alabama from Georgia to live with his great-uncle. But before arriving his great-uncle, a morphine-addicted abortion doctor, was killed. Canaan buried him, as they do other undesirables, outside the cemetery fence.
Now Miss Edna, who Thomas sometimes calls “Nana”, is dying. Esther, thirteen, took over as housekeeper and nurse. Esther, also an undesirable, is shunned because of her bastard birth. Thomas thinks he’s in love.
According to The Widow, her son is “The spitting image of his father only more handsome and smarter.” Old women adore him and men agree he will someday made the place proud. Young girls swoon and he’s the children’s hero. His peers struggle between envy and hate.
Thomas just wants to be a normal boy. But after learning the family secret, he knows he’ll be shunned too.