Fiona Campbell is a newcomer to tiny Ephraim, Wisconsin. Populated with artists and summer tourists, Ephraim has just enough going on to satisfy her city tastes. But she is fascinated and repelled by the furthest tip of Door County peninsula, Washington Island, utterly removed from the hubbub of modern life. Fiona's visits there leave her refreshed in spirit, but convinced that only lunatics and hermits could survive a winter in its frigid isolation. In a moment of weakness, Fiona is goaded into accepting a dare that she cannot survive the winter on the island in a decrepit, old house. Armed with some very fine single malt scotch and a copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Fiona sets out to win the dare, and discovers that small town life is not nearly as dull as she had foreseen. Abandoning the things she has always thought important, she encounters the vicious politics of small town life, a ruthless neighbor, persistent animals, a haunted ferry captain, and the peculiar spiritual renewal of life north of the tension line.