IN EUPHORIA opens in the wake of a freak hurricane-like storm in the middle of Illinois. The power is out and some roads are impassable, but Pauline and Jared manage to meet at the Goodwill Store, one of the few places with light and company. On probation after a first-offense for assault, Jared’s restitution is community service at the Goodwill drop-off dock. Pauline has her own shady business—she tends a small crop of marijuana on the ravine-like acreage surrounding her secluded home on a hill. These trespasses are only half the story. Pauline is married to Tom, a man with a rig that takes him to the road for weeks at a time, pitching husband and wife into temptations of that enforced single-hood.
She is already uncertain of her heart's desire, having endured a first loss when Neil Bone, a local rock star threw Pauline over for Tom's younger sister, Fiona. Now suspicious of Tom, whom she married for comfort and stability and what she once believed was love, Pauline is quietly won over by Jared after a chance encounter. Jared spends the night of the power outage in Pauline's bed and wakes to find Tom has returned home. With the affair in the open, Jared asks Pauline to choose, and she’s froze by indecision. Jared flees. Remorseful, Pauline sets out days behind him.
Pauline spends time with a clergyman and a Kansan ma-and-pa couple; Jared encounters a willing barmaid, a cowgirl-con, muggers, and the law, which returns him to Illinois for violating probation. Alone but for her dog Pendleton, Pauline reviews her history with rocker Neil Bone, her trucker husband Tom, and the sweetness Jared brought during their limited time together. Jared reviews a past he'd worked hard to outrun—a brother lost in Afghanistan, a drunk mother, childhood abusers and punks he'd brushed up against, including the assault.
Before she can make it to California, where she's convinced Jared is bound, Pauline discovers she's pregnant. With the identity of the father uncertain, she returns to Euphoria to face Tom and the truth she's learned about herself. Meanwhile, Jared gets mugged just inside the California state line, and remanded back to prison in Illinois. In jail he endures his cell mates, the unfortunates who show Jared life with Pauline is all he wants.
Pauline confronts Tom, and despite her pregnancy and uncertain paternity, is drawn against all common sense to Jared in Euphoria's Lincoln County jail. Tested by husband and brother, the past and the law, Pauline and Jared find themselves and one another as they seek the kind of love that Pauline describes as side by side trees with grown-together roots.