Set against the background of the Measure Nine (anti-gay rights) crisis in Oregon in the early 1990s, a brother and sister, both newly out, try to recover the lost affections of their children. Their combined quests are explored from five points of view in a novel of continuously rich and poetic language. The voices of Joanne (poet and mother), Harold (minister and father), Appleton (retired law professor and grandfather), Eleanor (collectibles broker and grandmother), and Samuel (politician, father and secret member of the homophobic Oregon Protection Alliance) comprise a book that explores diversity, the possibilities of a potentially peaceable kingdom--the precincts of light.
The characters move, each in his or her own faltering way, toward fighting not only intolerance toward gay and lesbian people but toward anyone who might be considered different. Thus the novel becomes the story of the American Family coming to new terms with itself after many shocks and surprises and affirming, ultimately, its own immense flexibility.