In the 1950s, Ellie and Brick are teenagers in love. As a basketball star, Brick has the chance to escape his abusive father and become the first person in his blue-collar family to attend college. But after Ellie learns that she is pregnant, they get married, she gives up her dream of nursing school, and Brick gets a union card instead. This riveting novel tells the story of Brick, Ellie, and their daughter Samantha, as the frustrations of unmet desires for sex, love, identity, and meaningful work explode their lives. The evolution of women's lives over decades of the second half of the 20th century is explored, in a story that richly portrays how much people know about each other and pretend not to-the secrets at the heart of a family.