Owen Mackenzie's life story abounds with sin and seduction, domesticity and debauchery. Sexually repressed as a young man, Owen later marries the elegant and remote Phyllis, his college girlfriend. But this soon leads to his first betrayal and he abandons his reserve, embarking on a succession of passionate affairs across New England. His compulsion to pursue other men's wives grows stronger and stronger as he fails to find satisfaction in his married life.
When a final affair with the local clergyman's wife culminates in a tragic and heartbreaking accident, Owen is forced to face up to his philandering and infidelity - and, as his descent into old age and impending oblivion begins, his own mortality.