It’s December 29, 1977, and recent college grad Sara Keatson is spending a few days at her parents’ home. With a job teaching art in an elementary school, Sara is seeking career fulfillment and also romance, but the small Iowa town where she is living does not provide many possibilities. Still, the idealistic, creative Sara dreams about finding her Prince Charming, the man who will steal not only her heart but also her virginity. Moreover, since she is an artist, Sara also clings to the notion that her ideal mate will share her appreciation for art. While life at her parents’ home is boringly predictable, Sara remains hopeful about the future, although the next morning she must attend an elderly relative’s funeral. That evening Sara remembers life at college, her good friends there, past relationships, and her married sister’s recent pregnancy announcement. When and how will Sara find the love of her life?
Less than four years later, it’s August 23, 1981, and Sara is married, living in Chicago, and working for Marshall Field’s. A long flashback, told by first-person narrator Sara, explains how this dramatic change happened, including all the realistic details about falling in love. That August morning, as Sara and her husband look forward to the very first steps toward suburban home ownership and starting a family, a tragic accident beckons them back to Iowa and a bittersweet reunion with college friends. During the drive there, Sara remembers her past relationship with her best friend’s husband, and in Iowa she reminisces about two, now very significant, conversations with her newly-deceased friend, one at the time of Sara’s own wedding and the other as her sorority sister happily anticipates the arrival of her first child. Faced with the morbid tasks of funeral preparation, Sara and her friends must come to the realization that life is neither long nor fair. With the fate of a parentless baby up for grabs, what decision will Sweet Sara and her decent husband make? Suddenly, Sara’s life is anything but a calm round of hours.