Moments before launching into the night on his first combat mission over Vietnam, Danny Manley, a young African-American, learns that Nat Washington has been shot. As he steers toward the sleeping village which he has been assigned to bomb, he reflects on the events which have led him to the cockpit of this navy attack plane and have led Nat to a violent death in Mississippi.
Danny is torn between his passion for flying and his love for Joan, Danny’s strong, passionate and fearless girlfriend, and Nat, his best friend, cousin and civil rights activist in the south. Each of them have opposed his life as a military aviator.
Finding himself on both a moral and mystical journey as he works to achieve his life-long dream of flight, Danny learns what it means to protect what Nat calls his “fatherland.” Can he achieve that dream and hold on to it in the midst of Joan’s opposition, his father’s disapproval, and the escalating tension of fighting a questionable war, in a far-off land, while at home, a war of racial prejudice and oppression against its own black citizens is being waged?
Set against the background of the United States civil rights struggles in the 60s, Danny’s love for Joan is filled with intense and mystical beauty despite their taboo interracial relationship and the painful tension of lovers finding that their deep commitments seem to be taking them in sharply opposed directions.
As Danny gets progressively closer to the fulfillment of his childhood dream of being a combat aviator he draws ever nearer to a painful and seemingly insoluble conflict with Joan, his life-long friend Nat, and indeed, with himself.