Marion and Barnaby Pierce are an American couple who are about to sell the New England house in which they have raised what seems to be a happy family. They are leaving on a trip across America in a vintage jaguar which Barnaby intends to give his son who is getting married in Los Angeles. Their long drive from coast to coast is planned to include a number of stops: the first to deposit their dog with Marion's pious, bitter sister in upstate New York.
At every stop there are memories and surprises as Barnaby and Marion live and re-live their secret dramas and, in the allusive, edgy dialogues of a long-married couple, reveal more about themselves than they care to confess. In Minneapolis, they find that their daughter, Stacey, is pregnant by one man and living with another; in Chicago, Barnaby's old writing partner, now a millionaire businessman, is unwisely lured into an old vaudeville routine; in Seattle, a meeting with a newspaper editor who once loved Marion re-opens old wounds; and in Los Angeles, their other daughter, Zara, who now calls herself Zenobia, turns out to be a shockingly unsociable member of her brother's wedding.