In a small Georgia town in the fifties, a curious eight-year-old White boy is puzzled. Why is he supposed to hold doors for White but not Black women? Why is there a toilet in the attic? Why are a dark-skinned woman's palms white?
As the South transforms from Old to New under the immense pressure of social upheaval, his idyllic red-clay childhood disappears when his father dies and his mother departs for a mental ward, plunging the family into financial and emotional chaos.
And the puzzles only continue. Despite his insights, he clings to his that's just the way it is mentality until integration looms, and a chance encounter marks a pivot in his process of beginning to unlearn racism. Then a scholarship to an Ivy League school up north provides an out but not a solution to his conflicts about family duty. Having coasted through high school, he finds himself unprepared for the academic and psychological challenges of his new life. Football is a haven, but he flounders and barely graduates.
He stays in the City and begins working with teenage drug users in the very neighborhoods he was warned about. As he begins untangling the knots tormenting him, he meets a woman from the city who is intrigued by this Southern jock who sings freedom songs. Seventeen months later, they marry.
Roadcuts Through the Heart weaves stories from varied times and places in a memoir about forgiveness and social change. Alabama prison trusties, baseball gloves, B-cowboy movies, sudden deaths, sexual abuse, Southern segregation, Northern ghettos, Big Apple drug programs, campus protests, unhinged lawmen, and a Southern biddy's voice are all encountered on the boy's grace-assisted path to forgiveness.