The story of an idealistic young social worker drawn into the lives of his mentally ill clients. Charlie Shade was born into a quiet, prosperous life, but a sense of injustice dogs him. He feels destined to leave his life of "bread and laundry," to work instead with people in crisis. On his way, he meets his kindred spirit in Alice, a soulful young woman, living helplessly by laws of childhood superstition. Charlie's empathy with his clients is both admirable and nearly fatal. An adoring husband and new father, Charlie risks his own cherished, private domestic world to help others move beyond their haunted inner worlds into the larger world of love and connection.