Edwin Keene has become something of a recluse after a tragic car accident in which one of the passengers was killed. The aristocratic Keene, son of a prominent local family, eases the pain of his own injuries with too-frequent doses of morphine. As his life appears to be slipping away, there is a sudden hope for redemption when Keene falls for Eureka Spaight, a local high-school girl whose working-class family is very different from his own. The novel is set in the early 1950s in the fictional eastern North Carolina town of Trent.
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