William Faulkner's Light in August opens as Lena Grove arrives in Jefferson, Mississippi after traveling hundreds of miles to Jefferson, Mississippi in search of Lucas Birch - the father of her unborn child. Lucas left Alabama, promising to send for Lena as soon as he was settled, but she never heard from him.

Lena learns that Lucas has been living in Jefferson for months under an assumed name. He has been bootlegging with a drifter named Joe Christmas.

Christmas was raised in an orphanage, then adopted by an abusive stepfather, whom he murdered. He has been on the run ever since. At the beginning of the novel, he is having a relationship with Joanna Burden - a local descendent of abolitionists, who is shunned by the whites in town because of her tolerance and kindness toward the blacks.

Each major character we meet is a misfit: an unwed mother or a defrocked preacher or a criminal or an abolitionist or an orphan. Many of them are self-destructive and all of them are interesting. When Faulkner introduces each character, he takes the time to review their backstory - explaining how they came to their troubles.

Soon, there is a murder and a manhunt and a town seeking justice for someone they never liked.

Race plays a huge role in this novel. One character looks white but is filled with self-loathing because he believes he is part black. The local white folks are quick to believe the guilt of an alleged murderer when they learn he may be part negro.

One thing the racism of the characters succeeds in doing is masking the extreme misogyny of many of the characters.

Sometimes the frequent time hops make this a difficult story to follow; but, stay with it. It is filled with tragedy and human drama and raw emotion.