In this 1940s coming-of-age story, Sarah, a naive seventeen-year-old Caucasian girl elects prostitution as part of a desperate plan to make quick money in order to escape her small-town life in Warren, Ohio. Her journey begins one night while eavesdropping on her Uncle Brady and his friends playing cards. They joke about a place they've discovered in nearby Youngstown, where men are entertained by beautiful ladies, who, apparently, make the kind of money she needs to fund her escape plan. Sarah's innocence assumes the women are dancers, like those in the New York City chorus line she once saw in a magazine. Thrilled at the idea of making lots of easy money, she and her friend Rita travel to Youngstown to find out for themselves.
Wallace is the suave Negro manager of 520, an upscale brothel, inconspicuously located in the "colored" part of town. Sarah is instantly overwhelmed by his charm. After starting to work there, they begin a secret affair. When she becomes pregnant, she has no doubt that it's his child. Wallace brazenly denies the accusation and suggests abortion.
Distraught, not knowing what to do, she turns to Bible verses and prayers the nuns taught their class when she was in Catholic school. She becomes friends with the colored pastor of a church in walking distance of 520. He helps her find her way to redemption and renewed hope. As a result of his counsel, she decides to keep the baby.
Her daughter Patty Jean is born at 520 on a busy Saturday night. Within minutes, Wallace swoops in and abducts the child to the sounds of Sarah wailing and pleading. Her initial plan of escape from Warren, though still possible, comes at a cost she never could have imagined!