Pearl Tull is dying. She is eighty-five years old. Her son Ezra stays with her. One of her dying wishes is that Ezra invite all the people in her address book to her funeral. One of those people is Beck Tull, Ezra’s father, whom he hasn’t seen since 1944, when Beck got tired of being married and left his wife and children never to return, he said, even to visit the children.
In 1944, Pearl pretends that Beck has not abandoned her. She raises her children herself, working part-time at the Sweeney Brothers grocery store. When her only friend visits her, she pretends that Beck is away on a business trip. Although at times she abuses her children, calling them names and hitting them, all of them seem on the surface to turn out fine. One day, Beck comes back to town and stands in front of the house, watching. Cody comes out. When Beck sees that Cody is getting along well without him, Beck goes on his way without letting the family know he was there.
Cody, the oldest sibling, has a love-hate relationship with his brother Ezra. He feels jealousy for Ezra that colors everything he does. He feels that he and Ezra are always in a contest and that each time they compete Ezra either wins or, as in a game of Monopoly, quits without a struggle. Cody is so determined to win games he and his family members play that he cheats. Ezra, however, seems unaware of any contest between himself and Cody. When Ezra becomes engaged to Ruth Spivey, Cody determines to win her away from Ezra. He succeeds, marrying Ruth.
Cody becomes employed as an efficiency expert. He moves his family from place to place, helping make companies more efficient. He hardly ever visits his family in Baltimore. When he does, the visits are always short, sometimes cut even shorter by his perception that Ezra is trying to win Ruth back. He and Ruth have a son, Luke, who hardly ever sees his grandmother but loves her dearly. When Luke is thirteen, the family moves temporarily to Virginia, where his father has a serious accident. While recuperating, Cody gets angry and says to Ruth in front of Luke that Luke is really Ezra’s child. Luke then hitchhikes to...
(The entire section is 875 words.)