Tom Ditzler, a veteran, buys 30 acres of rural farmland. For 50 years, he and his wife, Jan, live there, rearing two children, Cassandra and Christina. Tom comes to know the contours of his property by heart—the creek that runs across his land, the wetlands surrounding the creek, the hills and woods that rise up from the creek bed toward his house. Though legally blinded when a mortar misfired during an Army training exercise, Tom can walk his property without assistance. He can even drive a truck through portions of it.
Then, one day, everything changes. County officials notify him that they are going to build a road across his land. In the name of economic progress, they will take 17 of his 30 acres through eminent domain. The road will cut him off from the creek, from the wetlands, from the hills. It will run right past his house, less than 100 feet away. The world that he has known for 30 years—the property that has restored a measure of the freedom that he lost along with his sight—will suddenly become much smaller.
A young black jazz musician lives with his grandmother in a house that his family has owned for many years. In a neighborhood that would politely be called "marginal," Henry Hamberlin and his grandmother have kept up their home with a quiet sense of dignity. The woodwork has been immaculately kept, and the original gas lamps still work.
Then a federal judge comes along...