Duddy McGill is a dreamer -a man who turns his back on reality so often he falls from one disaster into the next. Occasionally, he is given an opportunity, so when no one wants the job, Duddy is appointed the town's temporary police chief. It's only for a week but in the first day of the job, Duddy arrests Mrs. Truman Taylor for shoplifting. A prominent citizen, Mrs. Taylor is humiliated and horrified. She resists and ensuing struggle, a dance down Main Street to the jail, happens in front for the astonished townspeople. Unfortunately for Duddy, he has arrested the wrong woman.
He doesn't have much better luck with Jugs Henderson, who sues him when she falls off her clothesline platform into the petunia patch, or with Mrs. Gordon McKenzie, a widowed schoolteacher who he ends up propositioning. Then there is Mary Lou Weaver, recently moved to Parrsboro because she always wanted to live by the sea. She definitely ends up looking at the water -stuck high above the ground in Duddy's truck. No wonder Duddy has a few prospects and a very suspicious wife.
Finally, Duddy's long-suffering wife Minnie has had enough. Out goes her husband and her old life. Yet despite it all, Duddy McGill tries to help people. He is the go-between for the man from Michigan, who has big plans to build a croquet factory in the town, and the local woman he has been searching for. Duddy really wants to do right. He assists his friends when possible. He builds a new deck for Royal after his friend suffers another tragedy and when Mink Martin goes to war with the bureaucracy, Duddy is there to help.
Duddy McGill is a man worthy of salvation. The problem is, he'll have to do it himself. But fate has a way of intervening, of picking up a small-town guy and making him an international hero. Here is a story of love, absurdity and people with warm hearts. Few writers could make a funeral funny, but it happens here in this story of human folly where you'll never stop laughing.