When Athol, a kindly, middle-aged, hard-working owner of a floor tiling company, and his wife Evelyn, first moved from Edinburgh to Houston (a small town near the Glasgow airport), he wasn’t sure he’d made the right decision. His neighbors seemed aloof, unfriendly, even stuck-up, but that all changed after a terrorist attack at the airport and the disclosure that the terrorists had actually lived in Houston brought the townspeople together. Now Athol is settled in, he looks out for his neighbors and they for him – but his business remains a struggle and his frustration is palpable.
Meanwhile, Morna, a single mother whose cartoon-drawing son, Joshua, is about to turn twenty-one, continues to work as a housecleaner in the Dairy area of Edinburgh. Morna, as it turns out, ran away from home at seventeen and she and Athol have not spoken to one another in fourteen years. She is angry, belligerent, hard-drinking and slutty, and exhibits an unearned sense of entitlement. To be sure, she's had a tough life but she doesn't seem to see how2 any of that might have been of her own doing.
When Morna’s racist son, Joshua, arrives unexpectedly at Athol’s home, he sets in motion a series of events that lead to our discovering the reasons behind Morna’s having left home, learning the causes of the siblings’ estrangement, understanding the sense of futility in their lives – and recognizing in these two superbly drawn characters the universality of familial misunderstanding and the toll it takes on human lives.