Ethan Ford - a handyman, kids' baseball coach, and volunteer fireman - is a town hero. After 13 years of marriage he's still deeply in love with his wife Jorie and a good dad to his son Collie. Then one morning Ethan is arrested for the rape and murder of a young girl fifteen years ago. Jorie and Collie are devastated and the townsfolk can hardly take it in, believing a terrible mistake has occurred. However Ethan pleads guilty to the crime, asserting that he's a 'different man' now. In one way he is, having acquired a new identity.
Collie is distraught and becomes completely withdrawn while Jorie torments herself trying to figure out how Ethan could have done such a thing. In flashbacks we learn that Ethan was a truly despicable youth who - after he committed the murder - instantaneously transformed himself into a good, caring man.
Other characters in the novel include Jorie's best friend Charlotte, who is suffering from cancer; Jorie's mother and sister who try to support her in this time of crisis; and Kat - an insightful young friend of Collie's. There are also lawyers who advise/defend Ethan, and townspeople who form an 'Ethan support group' to raise money for his defense. This group includes Kat's sister Rosarie, a beautiful but cold 17-year-old heartbreaker who becomes infatuated with Ethan.
The heart of the story involves how Jorie comes to terms with her husband's crime and the actions she decides to take. To me Ethan's sudden transformation into a 'good guy' after the murder is completely unbelievable and the story's finale also rings false. However, the characters are interesting and the book does a good job illustrating the heartbreak and devastation that can occur when a gigantic lie is exposed.