Oswald Campbell doesn't have much to live for, except to cash his paltry pension check, drop in on the occasional AA meeting, and visit the VA hospital. Dreading another winter in Chicago, he takes in stride the news that his emphysema will probably take his life before Christmas. Having no family except an ex-wife, who has since moved on, Oswald follows his doctor's advice and spends his final months in a more comfortable climate. By chance, he ends up in Lost River, Alabama, a sleepy town with so many single, older women that Frances Cleverdon, a widow, hopes that Oswald will turn out to be someone's knight in shining armor. Not quite the Romeo they had hoped for, Oswald nonetheless is taken under folks' wings. Without noticing how it happens, Oswald comes to love Lost River, visiting the town store and the feisty redbird that lives there, waiting out at the dock for the river-faring postman to bring the mail, or accepting myriad dinner invitations from the town's women. Frances hopes to fix him up with her sister, Mildred--if only Mildred wouldn't keep dying her hair outrageous colors every few days. The quirky story takes a heartwarming turn when Frances and Oswald become involved in the life of Patsy Casey, an abandoned young girl with a crippled leg. As Christmas approaches, the townspeople and neighboring communities--even the Creoles, whose long-standing feud with everybody else keeps them on the other side of the river--rally round shy, sweet Patsy.