Playwright Toby Alameda moves to a new town to begin a stint as director of the Cansville Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and sets about to reconstruct the story of his boyhood home and the extended family that once lived there. The structure itself had been expanded from a modest farmhouse where his family took in relatives during the Great Depression. By the time the young Toby was practicing archery in his upstairs bedroom two generations later, the great emptied house had so grown into his being that he hardly gave it any thought.
The folly of melding imagination and memory wends through the characters and local actors as the house comes to life upon the stage: the transvestite, Grey Calhoun, who will star as his beloved cousin, Virginia; Darling Forrest Nixon, wife of the theatre owner and aspiring muse to Toby; the old, empty LBJ Hotel where he rents a room on the top floor; and Charlotte Brown, maid in the hotel whose piano playing moves the play toward music and Toby toward the play’s completion.
The plot of the novel is Toby's attempt to make up a story he already knows; it builds with the writing of the play and culminates in the day before the premiere of “The Big House.”