In 1960s Virginia, college freshman and ingenue Peggy falls for professor and poet Lee, and what begins as an ill-advised affair results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. Mismatched from the start—she’s a lesbian; he’s gay—Peggy eventually finds herself in crisis and runs away with their daughter, leaving their son behind.
Estranged from the rest of the family, Peggy and her daughter adopt African American identities and live in near poverty to escape detection. Meanwhile, Lee and his son carry on, enjoying all the social privileges their gender, class, and whiteness afford them. Eventually the long-lost siblings meet, setting off a series of misunderstandings that culminate in a darkly comedic finale.
With an arch sense of humor and a witty satirical eye, Nell Zink upends the foundational categories of American life—race, class, gender, and sexuality—in a novel that is at once daring, envelope-pushing, and utterly hilarious, all the while tracing how a mother, daughter, father, and son figure out what it means to belong.