In addition, it was also nominated for a National Books Critics Circle Award, an American Book Award and a PEN/Faulkner Award, winning the Earnest Hemingway Foundation Award in 1983 for the best first fiction.
In the story, Leroy Moffitt, married to Norma Jean, is portrayed as rather static and traditional than his wife. Leroy Moffitt, previously a truck driver, has injured his leg in an accident leaving him handicapped for the time being. However, he makes some of his living by carving model decoration pieces from craft kits. He prefers to stick to ancient conditions rather than blend with the changing world. On the other hand, he is oblivious of his future heading and tends to rely on his wife for most of the living. In addition, he also smokes marijuana which further adds a mark of stain to his character. Leroy Moffitt has planned to leave the crowded countryside and reside in a quiet rural area where he wants to build a log cabin. However, his ideas run in contrary to what his wife believes.
Norma Jean, wife of Leroy Moffitt, faces a lot of challenges throughout the story and adds more spice to the climax. Unlike his husband, Norma is quite interested in flowing with the winds of change and blending with the colors of environment. A few months later their marriage, she gives birth to a child who dies because of SID. This, her mother considers a result of her neglect and smoking. Norma Jean seems to be fed up with the undesired way of life she is living. She does not at all likes to stick around with an overprotective mother invading her privacy even when the daughter has reached the age of 34. As we move on, we see the acuteness of her feelings when her mother catches her smoking. Further down the story, Norma has to somehow adjust with his daydreaming husband and irritating mother till the point where she takes a crucial decision. Apart from this, Norma works at a Rexall drug store to support the house. Moreover, she is conscious about her mind and body. Hence, she takes body building classes. In addition, she is also interested in changing and improving herself as she takes English composition and exotic food classes as well. Thus, we see a drastic change in her life since marriage which indicates her future desires and heading.
Mabel Beasley, the mother of Norma Jean, is depicted with quite a different picture. She is a sort of a character who takes deep interest in the lives of the Moffitts. She is shown blaming her daughter for the death of her daughter's child. In addition, she often invades her daughter's privacy such as entering the house without knocking. Mabel Beasley advises Leroy Moffitt for his future and suggests him to leave for Shiloh, a civil war battlefield in Tennessee, with his wife. Thus, the climax of the story commences with the story nearing its end.
The two, Leroy and Norma, left for Shiloh and indulge in picnic. Gradually, they approach an argument with each other after which Norma makes herself clear over her husband's outdated plans. The opposite direction of the views held by both lead them to part waves and change tracks. Thus, Norma rediscovers herself, strengthens her separate identity and leaves her husband to begin a new life where she could live according to her own ways. In addition, sh