Zachary Brannagan is a gifted young philosopher at the University of Virginia, who has decided that he can no longer find meaning in intellectual abstractions. So, in homage to his hero Nietzsche, he lies down in the middle of a road to die. But the suicide attempt fails, and compels Zach to confront the world around him. He embarks upon a cross-country journey, ostensibly to unravel the mystery of his bloodline. But he finds himself at The Lake, a kind of ad hoc orphanage in the dark heart of the Louisiana wilderness. There he meets Anna, an earthy woman who lives in self-imposed exile with her 'charges': eleven physically and mentally impaired children, the most precious of them being the mysterious and mute Samuel. Zach and Anna stir in one another an emotional awareness that neither has known before. But in this haunting, sublime novel, the price of love is tragedy.