Billy initially accepts his situation in life and never questions why, when others have plenty, he has to wear homemade clothing and live in an old trailer. Neither does he question why he experiences health problems, when it seems that no one else has such issues. Ultimately, Billy realizes that change must come from him. He decides to overcome his circumstances and proceeds to break out of his timid, sickly existence.
Along the way, his family's fortunes improve, and Billy becomes a dashing, confident young man. He meets Mary Ann Carpenter and falls deeply in love with her. Circumstances beyond their control geographically separate the young lovers, but the love they share spans the distance between them. Billy, however, loses his way and struggles to find himself. He is both helped and hindered by many others, who play a significant role in his life. Will he ultimately get his life on track, or will he be doomed to see his dreams shattered and live a mediocre existence?
This fictional story is set in the real cities of Savannah and Hinesville, Georgia. Included are many other actual locales, some of which no longer exist. History is intertwined throughout and the reader might recognize some of the events that occur as the story unfolds.