In the Dickeyville, Maryland area, five young friends meet and bond. They consider themselves like the five arms of a starfish. They are, Gwen, the Halloran brothers, Tim, Sean and Go Go, and the other girl, Mickey Wyckoff.
Their middle class area didn't require a lot of parental supervision on the children's playtime activities.
The novel moves between actions in the late 1970s and today.
In the current time, Gwen returned to care for her father who had fallen and broken his hip. She sees Sean Halloran who tells her that his brother, Go Go, has died from suicide.
In 1978 the five friends often played in Leaken Park and while exloring came upon an abandoned cabin that was now the dwelling place of a homeless man they referred to as Chicken George. He was often gone for long periods but the children became casual friends with him.
In the next summer, Gwen and Sean were dating and Go Go and Mickey traveled to the cabin. They become involved in an incident with Chicken George.
There are various versions of this incident and thinking about it has a major effect on the children and their parents.
The story is described on a leisurely pace to fit the life stlye of the children and leaves the reader saddened about the innocence of children and how quickly that disappears.