“Life heads down back alleys, takes sharp left turns. Then, one fine day it jumps the track and crashes.”
In the fall of 1957, Olivia McAlister is living in Opelika, Mississippi, caring for her two girls, Grace and June, and her husband. She dreams of living a much larger life-seeing Paris and returning to her wartime job at a landing boat factory in New Orleans. As she watches over the birds in her yard, Olivia feels like an “accidental”-a migratory bird blown off course.
When Olivia becomes pregnant again, she makes a fateful decision that reverberates throughout Grace's and June's lives. Grace, caught up in an unconventional love affair, becomes one of the “girls who went away” to have a baby in secret. June, guilt-ridden for her part in exposing Grace's pregnancy, eventually makes an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile Ed Mae Johnson, an African American care worker in a New Orleans orphanage, is drastically impacted by Grace's choices.As the years go by, their lives intersect in ways that reflect the unpredictable flights of birds diverted from their expected journey-and the consolations of imperfect return.
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