This is the story of the Peppers family of Counterpoint, Georgia. Henry, a stoic businessman, vies for rule of the house with his flamboyant wife, Florida, a pertinacious Baptist and aspiring artist. Their clear mission is to protect, guide, rein in, and keep well-dressed their children - asthmatic, hormonal Roderick and hell-bent Louise, who flees the Maude Wilson College for Women to join the Arthur Reese Travelling Show.
Louise, who tells the story, introduces the folks: "Pepperses are white, not albino or Swedish or anything like that, but regular white. We are also white on the inside. Except for my mother, Florida, who is high-strung, we never raise our voices or blow the horn of an automobile. We have no rhythm, and when we watch others dance, we tend to blush. Spicy food burns our tongues. Every other November, we vote Democrat, which, down South, used to mean the same thing as voting Republican. Florida is always careful not to cancel Henry's vote by voting for a different candidate. The whole family avoids discussing sex, politics, and religion, favoring the topic of the weather, which averages seventy-five degrees in Counterpoint year-round.
Louise would prefer something stormier: "If a circus had come to Counterpoint, not the three-ride gig that went up in the Sears parking lot, forbidden to the Peppers family because of insurance liabilities, but a real cotton-candy-stinking, clown-smirking, two-headed-baby, maiden-stealing, rip-your-last-dollar-off, old-fashioned show, I would have been on the first caravan out of town."