The people of Oak Grove fear water because their town once endured a terrible flood, so they do everything to keep water out of the town. Martha Glimmer and her friends, Trevor and Eli McGill, feel different from others in the town. Martha's sadness is largely due to her mother's recent death. Her father has withdrawn into his own sorrow and allowed a neighbor, Hildy Swoon, to provide meals and tend their house, but Martha resents her presence bitterly. Trevor and Eli, nicknamed Trout and Eel by those who make fun of the webbing between their fingers, have had odd habits ever since they were brought to town by their adoptive parents. The boys like to add salt to their drinking water, prefer fish to any other food, and free the frogs from the science lab at school. Martha, Trout, and Eel decide to leave home to find what each most desires, but their running is cut short by a storm that brings all characters in the story face to face with their own true nature.