Set in 1963 Mississippi, nine-year-old Starla has not seen her mother, who abandoned her to become a famous singer, since she was three. Her father works on an offshore oil rig and is not around much, so Starla lives with her cantankerous grandmother who never misses an opportunity to let Starla know what a trial she is. When Starla is grounded yet again, she runs away headed to Nashville and her mother. She is eventually picked up by a black woman named Eula who is traveling alone with a white baby.
What follows is a life-changing road trip during which Starla is exposed to the prejudice of the 1960s South. During their sometimes dangerous adventure together Eula, Starla, and Baby James face the harsh realities of life as well as learn the true meaning of love and family.