Having lived her entire life in a trailer, Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) is a pregnant, superstitious, and uneducated seventeen-year-old. With the exception of her boyfriend and the unborn baby's father Willie Jack Pickens (Dylan Bruno), she is all alone in the world with very little money of her own. On the drive from their current home in Tennessee to Bakersfield, California, where they are planning on moving, Willie Jack abandons Novalee in the small town of Sequoyah, Oklahoma. With no food and very little money, Novalee ends up secretly living in the town's Walmart. As her stay in Sequoyah is extended, Novalee is befriended and ultimately assisted by a variety of townsfolk, including a recovering alcoholic named Sister Husband (Stockard Channing), single mother and nurse Lexi Coop (Ashley Judd), who names her children after snack foods, Walmart's contract photographer named Moses Whitecotten (Keith David), and the temporary librarian named Forney Hull (James Frain), an academically brilliant man originally from New England. As much as they help Novalee, she in turn has a profound affect on them as each is dealing with an issue which stops them from having a truly fulfilled life. Forney ends up falling in love with Novalee, who feels she has to make a decision of how she can best help him. She is assisted in this decision by an unlikely source.