Born into a posh family, ten-year old Lizzie Vogel has lived a charmed life thus far, with a big sister who knows everything, a cute baby brother, and a full-time housekeeper who bakes jam tarts. But when, in 1970, Lizzie's father abandons her mother and packs his ex-family off to the tiny village of Flatstone, life for the Vogels veers catastrophically off-course. The new neighbors disapprove of divorcees and fatherless children, and Lizzie's theatrical mother provides constant grist for the gossip mill, letting the laundry pile up like Mount Sinai and spending her days drinking whiskey, popping pills and writing plays about how sad she is. Before long the family is shunned by village society.
Deciding that only a "man at the helm" will restore order to their household, Lizzie and her sister take it upon themselves to secure a new husband for their mother. As the two girls make their way down a list of candidates that includes a charming con-artist, an idiotic vicar, and several married men, Lizzie confronts the downright craziness of grown-up love and learns that sometimes a family needs to veer catastrophically off-course in order to find true happiness.