On a snowy morning in 1908, Baltimore police try to identify the corpse of a teenage boy who has frozen to death. "He's not a Polack," one says, "or a Heinie, or a Guinea." "No," the other replies, "he's an Izzy."
Some forty years later, Jennifer Miller, a college junior, has no idea that this dead boy has been shadowing her life. Her father, Lee, a man of many talents, has long ago broken with his immigrant family; shed his religion; transplanted his wife and daughter; and decided to raise Jennifer a Protestant, exacting a pledge that she "forget all about being Jewish."
Lee has mentored her, indulged her, entertained her with wicked puns, and unintentionally strengthened her by forcing her to cope with his moods, rages, and elaborate schemes to substantiate his gentile identity. But now the obedient daughter has a new love in her life, a classmate, World War II veteran Cleve Hamilton, who one fateful day sat down next to her in church. She must decide whether to perpetuate the family lie or reveal the truth, as her father, reversing his past warnings, insists she must.