Having never known or been told about his father, Thomas struggles to learn how to become a man in the uncertain and tentative years of the Reconstruction following the Civil War. His mother and grandmother show only marginal interest in training up a child. His instruction is taken up by others in his family, especially his paternal grandfather, Papaw Wes, a good and devout man who adores him. Thomas is bright, having excelled at the Maxwell Academy, polite, hard-working and honest, and he seems to do all the right things. Once thrilled at the gift of a Bible of his very own, he continues to "go to meetin'" throughout his life. But how much of the Bible teaching does Thomas actually embrace? Where does he set his priorities? There's no doubt that he grows to be the man his Papaw Wes hoped he would be...but is something yet lacking?