Though the story begins with a logging accident, it ultimately moves away from the town of Twisted River and on to settings throughout New England, the midwest, and even Canada. When Dominic Baciagalupo, the cook at one of Twisted River's few eating establishments, and Daniel Baciagalupo, his 12-year-old son who becomes a writer as an adult, have to hurriedly escape from Twisted River, they leave behind their close friend Ketchum and what few other ties they have to learn to create a new life elsewhere. Circumstances are continually forcing them to relocate, settling down in new towns with new restaurants, friends, and women. An elaborate story strung together by friendship, family ties, and secrets both dangerous and dark, the novel nearly spans a whole lifetime but never once falls dull.
In classic Irving style, this intelligent story slowly unravels and then comes back full circle, complete with startlingly true characters and a teasing interplay with the novelist's own past.