Back in the days of Ronald Reagan's America, those far-from-innocent days of nostalgic rot and willful illusion, small-town life was thought to be simple, pure, the source of all decent values, and the home of true hearts and ever helpful neighbors who bear each other's burdens. James McGrath, a church musician who has just destroyed his personal life and his career through an act of catastrophic stupidity, believes this nonsense just long enough to flee a city he loves. Hoping to heal, he goes to live with his father in a tiny town on the Canadian border. He finds what fools have always found: truths more ordinary and more bitter than he wants to accept and a life more impoverished and antagonistic than he imagined. Descending into this bleak reality, like Jesus in the wilderness, James must face and answer the question: what do we live by? He makes some friends, falls in and out of love, rediscovers his art, and eventually finds a way back into his life. But it's not a smooth journey, and it comes with a price.