For the first time in her life, sixteen-year-old Lutie Painter decides to cut school. She's received a phone call that she can't tell her aunt and uncle about, and the only thing she can do is take the bus to the very wrong part of town where danger (be it emotional or physical) may be awaiting her. A few blocks away, Train Green burns with anger. He's trying hard to live up the reputation of his criminal brother, but it's not as easy as he thought it would be. In the nicer section of town, Kelvin Hartley gets ready for a typical day at school, where he considers everyone his friend, and rarely tries any harder than absolutely necessary to get things done. Doria Bell, who has just moved to South Carolina from Connecticut, waits by the bus stop hoping that today will be the day that one of her classmates will finally notice her. These four lives intertwine in unexpected ways as Lutie explores her family ties, and her connection to a batch of gospel songs called the Laundry List that were passed down to her by her great-great grandmother. The songs are an important piece of American history, and represent faith and hope to those in need. Changes are in store for Lutie, Train, Kelvin, and Doria, as their paths cross and merge in ways they never could have imagined.