Antietam (Andy) Brown - named for the great-great-grandfather who died on that Civil War battleground - was ten years old when he killed his abusive foster father. Now, after seven years in reform school, he is free to make a new start. But he is immediately thrust into the violent and debased life of his real father (known as Tietam) - an oddly charismatic man who seems addicted to bodybuilding, beer-swilling and 'bareback riding'.
Swimming through a morass of crudity and violence, Andy is stunned to find himself pursued by the high school homecoming queen - a born-again Christian. Obsessed with the idea of offering his girlfriend a pure love and driven to find out whether he's descended from a monster or a hero, Andy searches for the truth in the dangerous currents of his father's past and present.