Melanie Daniel lives in a run down shack with her six-year old son Tyler in the rural community of Jasper, Arkansas, where she has lived all her life. Being illiterate, Melanie, in order to survive, depends on the money coming into the household from her husband, Carl, who is away in the military in California, who she hasn't seen in two years, and who she believes only married her because he got her pregnant. Believing that Tyler's life with Melanie is a dead end and that he potentially could end up illiterate like her, Carl, on his latest visit home, absconds with Tyler back to California. Melanie's motherly instinct kicks in and despite never having left Jasper and being ill-equipped to do so because of her illiteracy which she tries to hide from everyone, she takes a cross-country bus trip to get Tyler back. She arrives unannounced at the doorstep of her childhood friend Ronda. Ronda shares a house in the Hollywood hills with a musician named Rick, who is facing his own issues ...