On the eve of America’s entry into World War II, in a tiny Alabama town, two brothers come of age in a world of model trains, church, and the local chapter of the Klan: Randall, the son of a sawmill worker, a brilliant eighth-grader and lonely outcast, begins teaching his eighteen-year-old deaf and uneducated brother B.J. sign language. Simultaneously in small-town Maryland the two sons of a Pullman Porter, six-year-old hyper Eliot, a gifted student himself, and his brother Dwight who at twelve is discovering he likes boys more than girls, grow up in a world punctuated by the county fair, extended family picnics, a visit from A. Philip Randolph and the legacy of a lynched great-aunt. The four mature into men directly confronting the fierce resistance to the early civil rights movement, and are all ultimately uprooted, navigating a deaf urban world, the working class suburbs of the early calculator boom, a community fresh from the Panther heyday being accosted by the onset of AIDS. Their journey culminates in an explosive and devastating encounter between the two families.