Quent rapes 18-year-old Maizee Colson, daughter of one of the DeWitt's black tenant sharecroppers, on the night Allise gives birth to Peter. Maizee gives birth to Nate, Quent's son.
Quent and his brother, Sam, farm Daddy Joe's large river plantation. Daddy Joe frequents Vickery. a mulatto, and dies nude as a baby bird in her house. The brothers inherit the farm. Quent hates farming and dreams of stunt flying, while Sam is a son of the soil.
A flood wastes the cotton crop, and the Great Depression hovers over them. Allise learns about the sharecropping system and has verbal run-ins with her racially biased husband and others. She loses Quent to war and wards off Sam's love for her.
Allise takes Maizee and Nate under her wings, causing conflicts with her children and the townsfolk of Deer Point. Maizee finds happiness in caring for the DeWitt children and Miz Allie, who returns to teaching. After enduring arrest and a trial, Maizee finally marries Hatch.
Enduring a long courtship, Allise finds happiness with Dro McClure, but is estranged from her children.
Nate serves during the Korean War, returns and graduates Morehouse College. During the Civil Rights Movement, he, a college professor, is beaten on a Freedom Ride, regains consciousness but cannot speak.
Peter, of little ambition, marries Jill, who is as racially biased as himself. Cleesy is a drug-using flower child.
Allise's crowning achievement results from educating her students.