On the morning of May 6, 1963, Jeff Thompson and his sisters, Margaret, Patty, and Amy, departed for school. By that afternoon, their lives had irreparably changed. Their mother had been murdered, and their father soon was a suspect. Events leading up to the murder, as well as the immediate aftermath, are presented in the first half of the book, in the section titled Carol and Cotton. The relationships between family and friends following the murder provide the background for the second half of the book, Brother and Sisters, which tells of Carol and Cotton’s children’s lives after the murder.
Through the four siblings’ interviews with journalist William Swanson, readers get a glimpse of the complex feelings of these survivors who have lost one parent to murder and the other to incarceration. From public perceptions to their own views on their father’s guilt or innocence, the Thompson children share how their mother’s murder in the early morning after they left for school affected their lives. The public view of the kids can be summed up in Margaret’s quote: “I was always T. Eugene’s daughter, never Carol’s.”
The sometimes bizarre connections between the characters involved in the murder add a mysterious aspect to the story.