This sprawling, footnoted, comedic epic centers around Vonn Carp, who travels to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, for a funeral. He is returning disgraced and destitute, when, after a long and productive career in higher education, he was discovered to have falsified his academic credentials 20 years prior. Recently divorced and suddenly unemployable, he reluctantly agrees to join
his father, Milt, in what he considers an iffy business venture--Dollarapalooza, a family-owned dollar store.
For Milt the shop is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for old fashioned mercantilism, a "general" store. The store falls on hard times when a massive, big box "Wow-Mart" opens across the street and after a nearly tragic armed robbery in his store, Milt disappears. To the surprise and chagrin of the Carp family, Vonn insists on re-opening Dollarapalooza. Along with the store's eccentric staff, Vonn fashions an alternative business model aiming to make a difference in people's lives "one dollar at a time." For just one dollar, Vonn will answer anybody's question on any topic, and the citizens of Columbus come to him seeking his opinions on subjects like love, celibacy, anthropology, metaphysics, the Internet, and the true meaning of value. Through his interactions with the store's staff and customers, he conceives a new way of life with a changed outlook and a restored sense of purpose.