A college student from Ogunquit, Maine, Fran (or Frannie, as she is often called), is pregnant at the start of the book, a topic which results in a painful standoff with her mother and the end of her relationship with the baby’s father, Jesse Rider. The superflu all but wipes out her community, with Fran and Harold Lauder being the only local survivors after parking lot attendant Gus Dinsmore dies on June 30. After burying her father in the garden he was weeding just a week earlier, Frannie decides to join forces with Harold. Harold decides to paint a message on Moses Richardson's barn (as it overlooks US Route 1, the road most people would take into town) telling anyone who reads it that they have gone to the fictional Stovington, Vermont plague center and even leaves road directions, then finishes by signing both his name and Frannie's (the latter name causing him to nearly fall off the roof). The two make their way to the Stovington facility of the Centers for Disease Control in hopes of finding someone in authority, but before they reach their destination they meet Stu Redman. After Harold reacts VERY negatively to Stu, he finally agrees to let Stu join their party and the three of them travel back west on US 302 to Glen Bateman's house but not before Stu tells them that everyone at the Stovington facility is dead. Glen Bateman agrees to join them and they travel west to Stovington and confirm that not only is everyone dead at the Stovington facility but that Stu was nearly killed there. They then make their way west to Mother Abagail, during which Fran falls deeply in love with Stu, a fact she records in her diary (as well as many other things about the trip west).