Set thirty some years after a nuclear apocalypse, the unnamed narrator, a young loner who travels from camp to camp in the Southwest desert looking for work in exchange for food, and especially water, has been listening carefully to discussions and rumors of a place in the North called the Great Lakes where water is supposed to be easy to come by. He plans to travel alone to check these rumors out, but is convinced by Zara, an “old one” (someone who remembers life before the disaster) that traveling in a group would be safer. Ultimately a group ranging in age from the very young to Zara’s crazy mother, with varying survival skills, set forth. They encounter storms, bandits, hostile camps, quicksand, illness, and arguments, as they search for something no one is sure exists.
There are a couple of secondary characters who are lesbians.