Magnus, an ambitious and high-powered young man returns home to intervene in his parents' separation. His father married the wrong sister, and his beautiful, flirtatious mother compensates for this with affairs. The narrative flits back and forth between the present day and Magnus's childhood. Several events in Magnus's youth have a lasting impact on his personal life and his relationship with his parents.
We learn of Magnus's father's own parents and of his youthful relationship with his wife, Stella, and about a road trip taken by father and son through the deserts of Eastern California. As the bonds of family life are tested time and again, each character must come to terms with their own complexes, conflicts and ghosts from the past. Finally, Magnus's father's attempt to poison Stella in their later years brings the drama to a head, and navigates a difficult landscape of unhappy marriage, and making amends for past actions.