Ezekiel was the unexpected, younger twin of a brother who suffered brain damage as the result of a fever sustained in a rubella outbreak as a toddler. Carter was always a little behind developmentally, but Zeke did his best to look out for his brother as best as he could. Their mother is determined that Zeke will be the only one of five children who will make it to college and arranges for him to stay with her cousin in Virginia so that he can attend UVA on full scholarship. While Zeke is away, their mother makes a decision about Carter's future that ends up affecting the outcome of Zeke's life.
Twenty-five years later, Zeke works a blue collar job in his Tennessee hometown. He never finished college, his wife has divorced him and remarried another man, and the ten-year anniversary of Carter's drowning is rapidly approaching. Unable to process all of these events, Zeke loads Carter's aging dog into his truck and hits the road. He leaves behind his three sisters, his ex-wife and two adolescent daughters, and a mother who has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. At a loss as to what to do next, Zeke finds himself headed towards that Virginia farm where cousins Georgia and Osborne had supported him like the son they'd never had.
There's not a huge amount of originality in this story, all about familial obligation and redemption, forgiveness and second chances. It's a story you've probably read a few variations of on several occasions. While the plot occasionally dips into cliche and the ending ultimately feels rushed, Amy Franklin-Willis writes in a way that rings genuine and realistic. Zeke is a fully empathetic character, and I truly just wanted him to be okay.