Ray Atlee, a professor of law at the university of Virginia, is forty-three and newly single. His father, a very sick old man who lives the life of a recluse in the ancestral home in Clanton, Mississippi, was once a beloved and powerful official who towered over local law and politics for many years. With the end in sight, Judge Atlee issues a summons to Ray to return home to Clanton, to discuss the details of the family estate. Ray reluctantly heads south. But the family meeting does not..