In the years leading up to World War II, life at the Tipton Home is tranquil. The children help run the farm that sustains them and obey Dale and Muriel Jenkins, the couple running this rural Oklahoma orphanage on a tight budget. But the arrival of a sensual and impulsive young housemother interrupts Tipton’s gentle rhythms.
Alice Williams quickly attracts the admiration of the teenaged boys. Ross Gentry in particular develops feelings for Alice, who nurses him to health after a brutal fight and agrees to help him find out the identity of his birth parents. Defying her Aunt Muriel and Uncle Dale, Alice flirts with Ross and the other boys, meddles in orphanage business, and goes out drinking with Anna Boyer, a fellow housemother who has a crush on her.
All the while, Alice longs for her estranged husband. Macklin Williams now lives in Rapidan, Virginia, where his high-handed great uncle has promised to pay for his education so long as he tends the horses at Red Road Farm. While Alice dreams of Macklin, he tries mightily to forget her and retain his place at the family estate he loves.
The attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything. Ross forgoes a college scholarship for military service. Alice decides to leave Tipton as well. With Anna’s reluctant help, she seeks out Macklin, who stopped communicating with her long ago. Set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War II, Tipton is a sweeping coming-of-age story about love and friendship and unavoidable heartbreak.