It is 1970 in a small town in California. "Bean" Holladay is twelve and her sister Liz, is fifteen when their mother, Charlotte, takes off, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. One day Bean sees a police car outside the house, and she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives. Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears many stories about why their mother left Virginia. Bean adores her whip-smart older, nonconformist sister. But when school starts in the fall, it's Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. Then something happens to Liz, and Bean is left to challenge the injustice of the adult world.