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Exiled from his small southern town by sexual scandal, 18-year-old Bill Shaffer searches for a new life. What he finds is the dangerous friendship of a reckless, drug-dealing Vietnam vet and the shifting affections of two baffling women. When fate entangles the four, Bill finds that fate, like truth, is far stranger than fiction...
During his last year of high school in 1967, Bill Shaffer's placid life in the small Georgia town of Hopperton is shattered. Bill is an ordinary, if dreamy, young man who plays chess, studies hard, and looks forward to college. Yet as the school year unfolds his love for a new girl in school leads to unforeseen scandal for both of them. Meanwhile, his best friend's father, ominously obsessed with the Civil War, enmeshes Bill in a dark and violent scheme. At home, Bill's secret belief in racial equality puts him at painful moral odds with the people closest to him.
Banished from Hopperton, Bill makes his way to a college town in Florida, where he meets Carl Decker, a charismatic, motorcycle racing Vietnam vet and pot dealer. The two form an unlikely, double-edged friendship which waxes and wanes over time, bringing both peril and two fascinating women into Bill's life: Karen and Linda, his future wives. Entanglements of love and disillusion, friendship and betrayal, bind the fates of these four people to one another, weaving a gripping fictional meditation on the frailties and resilience of the human condition.
In the end, a tragic accident and a forgotten voice from his boyhood bring Bill face to face with a question he can no longer put aside: How can he make peace with the past while keeping faith with who he has become?