The narrator is driving with her lover, Joe, and another couple, David and Anna, from the city where they live to a lake in the wilderness of northern Quebec. Every year as a child, the narrator and her family had returned to this lake to spend the summer on an isolated island reached only by boat. The narrator and her brother had gone to school in a different town every year because her father was a botanist who worked in several locations for industry and the government. The narrator’s mother had died on the island, and her brother had fled the family.
The narrator, who had not attended her mother’s funeral and is now estranged from her father, has not returned to the island for some years. A family acquaintance, Paul, who lives in the village along the lake, had contacted the narrator to say that her father, who has been living alone on the island, is missing. She does not tell her traveling companions the real purpose of the trip.
The quartet reach the village. The three friends go into a bar while the narrator talks with Paul; she learns nothing more about her father’s disappearance. She buys supplies, then another villager, Evans, runs the narrator, Joe, Anna, and David in his motorboat up the lake to the island, which is two miles long. The narrator does not want to see her father, only to find out that he is all right. She claims to be estranged from her father because she had abandoned a husband and baby some years ago, for which her parents never forgave her.
When they get to the island, they find the father’s boats, but no sign of him. The narrator also finds some childlike drawings and decides that her father went insane living alone. The four had planned to leave the next day, but David, the dominant member of the group, urges them to stay for a week. He enjoys this primitive life, he says, away from the city where he and Joe teach in an adult-education school. David and Anna have been married for nine years, but their relationship is filled with tension and abuse. Joe and the narrator live together, but Joe is silent, and the narrator is not sure she loves him, although Joe would like them to marry.
Soon, the narrator becomes increasingly unmoored. She feels trapped on the small island and senses her father watching her...
(The entire section is 935 words.)