The storyline begins in Mark Hill, Georgia near the end of the Great Depression and follows Henry Jimson’s life to the end of World War Two.
The plot develops an unlikely bonding between an old man and a boy. Old Man, the name he prefers, is a permanent resident of the county home at Mark Hill. Henry, a seventh grader, first encounters him on a class field trip to the home. Old Man intentionally reveals nothing of his past and his true identity remains a mystery until the very end of the book. He is a constant source of wisdom, knowledge and guidance for the boy. Henry becomes the old man’s closest friend and companion.Mother, Father and Henry are a close knit and loving Christian family.We follow this intelligent and gifted boy from seventh grade until his graduation from high school, and then to a university with a full scholarship.
Henry meets Mary there and his life is changed.
World War Two interrupts Henry’s education and time with Mary. He makes the decision to join the Army and is assigned to the Medical Corps.
Henry and his new friend, Fred Guenther are sent to Africa, to serve in a combat field evacuation hospital. Later they take part in the invasion of Sicily, where they encounter German and Italian troops in close combat.
While advancing toward the town of Messina, his platoon is pinned down by enemy fire. He becomes separated from his unit and then gravely wounded by friendly fire.
He is comatose and cared for in a British hospital for weeks. He miraculously awakens, begins his recovery and is sent home, honorably discharged.
Henry is unprepared for the death of Old Man. In the end the reader learns of Old Man’s surprising identity and past.