As back-to-back hurricanes ravage the rural town of Pennsboro, the family suffers an irredeemable loss. Georgia becomes mired in a haze of medication and TV. Marsh retreats into work and fantasies of the redhead next door. Wil, a precocious boy with a fondness for a girl with almond eyes, suspects his parents are possessed by the aliens from his favorite movie.
Adding to their private grief is the collision of consumerism and the Cold War, and the rising threat of Soviet missiles that may render obsolete America’s last hope for defense, the newly completed Distant Early Warning Line.
With the launch of Sputnik, the family’s anguish comes to a head. As the Andersens watch the first man-made satellite write history across the sky, they wonder if they, and the world, will ever find peace.