Ruthie & Rita have struggled their entire lives. As Ruthie introduces us to the pair, we learn some of the hardships they have faced as a homeless mother and daughter. Rita has never told Ruthie who her real father is and she herself is a product of a foster home childhood. Rita treats Ruthie as an adult and Ruthie is allowed to know all the intimate details of what Rita will do to just continue to exist on this Earth.
After they leave Rita's current boyfriend, they take what they can to sell and survive. As their money runs low on the way from California to Boston, they pull off to find a place for gas and to steal some food. They run smack into Fat River and that lucky or divine decision saved them, at least for a while.
Fat River is your average small mill town slowly dying off in small pieces but still living off the money generated by the mill. Industry is dripping slowly out of America and heading to Mexico and China but the mill is still providing income for Mel and the diner/gas station combination business he runs. Lucky for Ruthie and Rita, their car breaks down here because kind-hearted Mel gives them a job and a place to live.
Ruthie and Rita finally have roots and stability for one of the first times in their lives. They have friends in the small community they live in and coworkers who look out for them. Rita waitresses at the diner and Ruthie washes dishes. Peter Pam and Arlene become the glue and laughter that Rita and Ruthie need to survive. Ruthie strives to keep her impulsive mom on the straight and narrow but life has a way of throwing curve balls when you least expect them. When they get in financial trouble again, their lives take another desperate turn. Rita tries hard to provide for her daughter the only way she knows how and plans out Ruthie's future attending an Ivy league college. Will Ruthie make it, is the question? As we meet all the "family" they make along the way, we have hope.