In 1998, five newcomers arrive at the annual Settlers' Reunion at the Columbia River. Not far away looms the defunct Hanford Nuclear Plant that secretly produced the plutonium for the bombs dropped on Japan in WWII. The settler families normally gather for a calm time of nostalgic storytelling, though several still nurse anger over their eviction in 1943 for the bomb site. Others are more worried about the radioactive waste seeping from the nuclear plant. Three of the newcomers disrupt the scene with their own urgent missions. Bruce, a Middle-East wars vet, there to present his great uncle's memoir, is harassed by an angry ex-rancher. When Ike, a Wanapum Indian bus driver distressed over shrinking salmon runs, drives people upriver to the area that was once green orchards, Bruce is outraged at the scene of devastation. Also on the bus are Suki, a Japanese American grad student with a task from her family, and Elena, a Siberian shaman who tries to heal toxic rivers. When they chance on young protesters plotting a nighttime event at the plant, the action grows more complex. The nuclear plant managers get involved and even the desert's wildlife. A Wanapum elder and a cynical anthropologist each try to coax the players toward a common goal: the healing, both physical and political, of the Columbia. But still more students and ranchers are drawn into confrontations. Still, while so many viewpoints grapple, many people bond in new friendships and two in a quixotic love affair. With the characters, the reader gains a sweeping view of the Northwest's imperiled salmon runs and the dire nuclear dangers the whole world faces.