Car thief Troy Falconer returns home after years of wandering to reunite with his younger brother, Harlan. The two set out in search of Harlan's wife, Bettie, who's left him cold and run away with the little money he had. When stealing a station wagon for their journey, Troy and Harlan find they've accidentally kidnapped a Mennonite girl, Martha Zacharias, sleeping in the back of the car. Martha turns out to be a stubborn survivor who refuses to be sent home, so together, these unlikely road companions haphazardly attempt to escape across the Mexican border, pursued by the police and Martha's vengeful father.
This is only one layer of Troy's story. Through interjecting entries from his journal that span decades of an unraveling life, we learn that Troy has become so estranged from society that he's shunned the very idea of personal property. Instead of claiming possessions, he works motels, stealing the suitcases and cars of men roughly his size, living with their things until those things feel too much like his own, at which point he finds another motel and vanishes again into another man's identity.