Virginia Beach is a resort town, deserted by the tourists until the summer season. Robert Bausch peoples this barren landscape with damaged characters who are at home with such isolation, acting out their individual human dramas, each stumbling under a burden of unsettling and unfamiliar emotions.
County Sheriff David Caldwell, newly arrived in Virginia Beach, is opening a local office, commuting to his home when not ensconced in the nearly empty Clary Hotel. Caldwell has never recovered from trauma of the accidental death of his youngest son, Bobby, at the hands of his eleven-year old-brother. Todd was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to Juvenile Detention until his eighteenth birthday.
After his release, Todd refuses to return home, his feelings complicated by his part in the tragedy and the sense of displacement he feels with his family, especially his father. After two years, Todd agrees to meet with his father in Virginia Beach, only to ask David why he did not believe his account of the accident. Their relationship severely strained, father and son cannot make peace with the past that so defines their present.
Caldwell is a tormented man, his loss of one son the occasion of the loss of the other, allowing no peace of mind. Meanwhile, Todd is nursing the hurts of a wasted childhood, in many ways still the wounded child who has done the unforgivable and torn his family asunder. It is the nature of their tragedy, that neither can comfort the other.
An adopted child in search of her birth mother, Lindsay Hunter arrives at her mother’s trailer only to learn that she died years ago. On the doorstep of the trailer, a scant distance from the ferris wheel on the boardwalk, Lindsey’s tentative knock is answered by a skeptical half-brother, Cecil Edwards. Cecil is a massive and humorless man known for his eccentric behavior and dislike of the residents of Virginia Beach.
With her simple needs and unassuming acceptance of a personality-disordered half-brother, Lindsey becomes an emotional catalyst for the men she meets here, including Todd and his father, Sheriff Caldwell. Lindsey forms a relationship of sorts with Cecil, but is generally unable to overcome his years of antisocial veneer. Yet in her cautious exploration of new friendships, Lindsey helps Todd redefine his connection with his father.
The enigmatic Cecil has managed to remain aloof, his very size and temperament serving as a deterrent. But when these bored, middle-aged residents of Virginia Beach demand the Sheriff to address their problems, all are drawn into an unfolding drama of Shakespearean proportions. These individuals, ripe with despair, loneliness and abandonment, wander through a morass of uncomfortable feelings, groping toward resolution. In spite of considerable resistance, Bausch’s characters, albeit often unwilling, learn the language of forgiveness.