Dixie Stammers, a potter, and her son Judas, live in an unusual community in an unnamed southern state. When Judas is a teenager, the art world falls in love with Dixie when it is discovered that not only are her pots mechanically perfect spheres, they are also identical, despite the fact that they are made entirely by hand, without benefit of a wheel, measuring device, or any other tool. Fame and fortune puts a strain on Judas's relationship with his mother, in part because he is an only child and never knew his father, but also because he is afflicted with a port wine stain that covers the entire left side of his body, including his face.
Pathologically shy (or maybe just pathological), the teenaged Judas retreats into a world of anonymous sexual encounters at a roadside rest area, although what he really longs for is a relationship with one of the boys at the private school he attends. This Academy was founded by Judas's ancestral grandfather, a nineteenth-century coal magnate named Marcus Stammers who due to a tragic accident, closed his mines and transformed them into a nature conservancy, which is overseen by the Academy. Driven by both lust and a desire to understand his mother, Judas dives deeper into his family's history, and the Academy's, until he uncovers a series of secrets that causes him to question everything he thought he knew about his world.