Against a 1913 background of bitter feuding over water levels along the Napanee River in eastern Ontario, two young people find themselves persuaded to a hut in the Long Swamp south of Bellrock. A third youth, deaf and untrained in speech, imagines he can keep them safe from a danger he intuits but cannot understand. The novel is centrally about their interactions and, more generally, about the power of story and the beauty of true communication. The Drowned Lands follows the thinking and feeling of the main characters, including a circle of important background characters (a teacher, a doctor, the parents of the young folks, a dynamiter, custodian of the threatened dams along the river, and Bad Bob, a Barnardo Boy gone wrong). The controlling point of view is that of a narrator whose views, while not often intrusive, are important to the conduct of the story. Through him, the author probes sensitive matters like, among others, justice (flawed), individuality versus conformity, the effect of political and social conflict on the lives of individuals, the relationship of humans to the natural environment.