Outside of Scottsville, New York in the Catskill Mountains, the parents of young Samantha “Sammy” and Terry Prescott are killed in a head-on car collision. Several years later, still living in their childhood home, Sammy is a bank lending officer and single mother, who forgoes part of her lunch hour each day so that she can drive her eight-year-old son Rudy from school to his baby sitter in the afternoon. When the inflexible Brian Everett, who lacks true managerial skills, is hired by the bank as her new boss, he orders her to make different arrangements for her son. At home, Sammy is cheered to receive a long-overdue letter from Terry, announcing that he is coming for a visit, the first in two years. That evening, after she reads Rudy’s school essay describing his estranged father as a dashing secret agent, Sammy meets with her longtime, but uncommitted boyfriend, Bob Stegnerson, to discuss what she should tell Rudy about his father, with whom she no longer has contact. Meanwhile, Terry, who is unemployed in Worcester, Massachusetts, argues with his girl friend, Sheila Seidleman, about their lack of money. After callously suggesting that Sheila move back home with her parents, Terry leaves and a day later arrives in Scottsville, where he is greeted by the town sheriff, Darryl. He then meets an enthusiastic Sammy for lunch at a local restaurant. While prodding Terry for details about his recent activities, Sammy is disappointed to learn that his visit will be brief and that he needs a loan to help Sheila, who is pregnant. Terry then admits that he spent three months in a Florida jail, after brawling in a barroom, but scoffs at Sammy’s suggestion that he needs religious guidance. After lunch, Sammy gives Terry money, then vents about being used. That night, Terry telephones Sheila, but learns that she has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Shaken, Terry immediately mails Sheila the money, then accepts Sammy’s offer to move back home. The next day, Sammy lends her car to Terry, in exchange for his promise to drive Rudy from school to the baby sitter’s. At work, while she and her co-workers chafe under Brian’s exacting yet trifling demands, Sammy gets a concerned call from Rudy’s baby sitter, who says that Rudy never arrived there. Alarmed, Sammy bolts from work in search of him and discovers that Terry has taken Rudy with him to his part-time carpentry job. When she returns to work, the shallow Brian, who has little sense of priorities, rebukes Sammy for her abrupt departure. That evening, after spending several hours in an empty bar, Terry returns home and expresses his disgust with small town life to Rudy. When the boy asks if Terry knew his father, Terry admits that he did, but never liked him. Later, in an effort to be useful, Terry works on the house’s aging plumbing and baby sits Rudy while Sammy goes on a date with Bob. Literally interpreting Sammy’s orders to limit Rudy’s television viewing, Terry takes his nephew to a pool hall, where they win a round of eight-ball. Meanwhile, over dinner, Sammy is shocked by a marriage proposal from Bob, who has until then been indecisive about their relationship, and asks for time to consider it. She returns home, unaware that Terry and Rudy have barely preceded her and that Terry has demanded a promise from Rudy not to tell his mother about their outing. When Sammy trips and gashes her knee on an exposed section of piping that Terry has been repairing, she announces she will call a plumber. The next day, Brian introduces his pregnant wife Nancy to his employees and Sammy is intrigued by the obvious tension between the couple. That afternoon, Sammy learns about Rudy’s trip to the pool hall from Darryl. Terry, sulking over the arrival of the plumber, forgets to pick up Rudy, who then walks through a rainstorm to Sammy’s office. Outraged, Sammy scolds Terry for forgetting Rudy and for taking him to the pool hall. Terry, believing that Rudy broke his promise, angrily banishes his confused nephew to the baby sitter’s house. After work, Sammy talks Brian into going out for dinner, where he admits having marital difficulties, and afterward they have sex in his car. That night, Sammy and Terry reconcile. Sammy confides her feelings of discomfort about Bob’s proposal and admits to her affair with Brian. After some bickering, Terry learns that it was not Rudy who told Sammy about the pool hall and feels guilty. Soon after, Sammy and Brian’s affair spills into their workday when they kiss in his office, and Sammy is distracted when she meets Bob for dinner. Afterward, she meets Brian for a hasty tryst at a motel, which gives Terry a chance to apologize to Rudy privately for accusing him of betraying their secret. The next day, troubled by her errant behavior, Sammy consults her pastor, Ron, but instead of addressing her problems, she voices her concern about Terry. Ron comes to the house to counsel them and suggests that Terry has found no meaning in life. An annoyed Terry agrees that he is not a good influence on his nephew and calls off the fishing trip he and Rudy had planned. Stung, Sammy accuses Terry of taking his anger at her out on Rudy. The next day after church, Terry shows up with fishing rods, and he and Rudy leave together. Sammy again meets with Ron and confesses her affair with Brian, but is disconcerted when Ron fails to upbraid her. She meets with Bob, and although they admit they love each other, she declines his offer of marriage leaving their relationship undefined. Then, after a sexual rendezvous with Brian at the motel, Sammy tells her boss they must stop seeing each other. Meanwhile, at the fishing hole, Rudy again asks Terry about his father and Terry decides that Rudy should know the truth. They go to a trailer park in a nearby town, where Terry introduces Rudy Kolinski to his son, but when Rudy, Sr. denies that he is Rudy’s father, he and Terry exchange insults. A fistfight ensues, after which the police arrive and arrest Terry. Upon returning home, Sammy grows anxious at finding both Terry and Rudy's absence and calls the police, then Bob, who waits with her. The next morning, when Terry calls from jail, Bob accompanies Sammy to bail him out. After they retutn home, Sammy, who has missed work, receives a call from the furious Brian, who fires her. Rudy tries to deny to himself that Rudy, Sr., is his father, but Sammy admits that he is. Later, claiming that he is a bad influence on Rudy, Sammy asks Terry to get his own place and offers to buy Terry’s share of the house to provide him money. Terry refuses the offer, deciding instead to leave Scottsville and spend his last days in town at a friend’s house. While he packs, Terry explains to Rudy that he wanted to show him what his father was really like. When Terry expresses anger at Sammy for throwing him out of the house, Rudy offers to accompany him, and Terry is touched by the boy’s loyalty. Sammy returns to the bank to confront Brian, implying she will reveal their affair if he indeed fires her. Although Brian tries to exude a dignified professionalism, Sammy declares that he will have to allow her to continue to pick up Rudy after school and he meekly agrees. She then returns to work, and later has lunch with Bob. At home, Rudy is despondent about Terry’s departure. After several unsuccessful calls, Sammy finally reaches Terry, who has been out visiting their parents’ graves, to ask if he will see Rudy before leaving town. The next day, just before Rudy’s school bus arrives, Terry shows up to say goodbye. Afterward, when Sammy accompanies Terry to his bus stop and confesses her deep concern for him, Terry reassures her that he will be fine. He admits how much she means to him and that it comforts him to know that she is at home rooting for him. After promising Sammy that he will always return to her, Terry boards his bus and leaves, and Sammy drives to work.