Honor, an orphan, finds her way to the Victorian boarding house where she thinks her mother might have birthed her. World War II has just ended, which alerted many Americans to the world beyond, but Honor and Billy's lives are limited to the dead-end town of DeForest Junction, Ohio, and its nearby notcherie, where exotic women sell their bodies to the rail men. Alongside her mixed-race "cousin" Billy, Honor grows to womanhood, cared for by Miss Alsada and enchanted by the colorful stories of the shanty store owner, Mr. Augustus Willard, who claims to have traveled far and wide.
One day, an itinerant blues musician shows up at the boardinghouse, electrifying Billy with his skill at the upright piano. He departs just as quickly, leaving behind hints that he might be Billy's father. Soon after Buster Stanley's departure, men in white hoods burn a cross in the field behind the boardinghouse and torch a number of shacks occupied by black families. Honor and Billy decide to leave DeForest Junction - a feat they accomplish with the help of Mr. Willard, whose shanty store was burned. With Honor disguised as a boy for safety's sake, the three friends ride the rails southward to their ultimate destination, New Orleans. Billy is on the trail of Buster Stanley, but Honor is on an intense quest for Honor. How will she escape the fate of those women, waiting for a man to fill up the void in her life?
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