River Smith is eight years old when she begins to dislike herself. As her mother pulls the straightening comb, heated on the kitchen stove, through the naps of her hair she holds back tears and swallows down pain when the melting pomade burns her young scalp. She knows her mother is only fixing what is wrong with her. River enters her adult world as a self-perceived illicit woman, filled with passion and dreams, as she confronts child abuse, bigotry, and lust, while longing for true companionship. While River searches her way through the maze of sexual, racial, gender, and work identities she must live through the worst five days of her life; days that could well determine if she will live or die. If she makes it through and escapes from Houston to Chicago, will she embrace self-acceptance and thrive?