Two families. Two faces of America. An act of violence with far-reaching consequences. Gus Voorhees is a pioneer in the advancement of women's reproductive rights and a controversial abortion provider in the American Midwest.
One morning as he arrives at his clinic, he is ambushed by a hardline Christian, Luther Dunphy, and shot dead.
The killing leaves in its wake two fatherless families: the Voorheeses, who are affluent, highly educated, secular and pro-choice, and the Dunphys, their opposite on all counts. When the daughters of the two families, Naomi Voorhees and Dawn Dunphy, glimpse each other at the trial of Luther Dunphy, their initial response is mutual hatred.
But their lives are tangled together forever by what has happened, and throughout the years to come and the events that follow, neither can quite forget the other.
A heart-rending reckoning with some of the most incendiary issues that divide us in our troubled times - religious extremism; abortion; gun violence; capital punishment - this is a novel Joyce Carol Oates was born to write.
To read it is to encounter the full spectrum of humanity - its ugliness, misery, beauty and hope.