In Paducah, Kentucky, high floodwalls confine the current of the mighty Ohio, and for seventeen-year-old Thomas, the small town he has known all his life is full of limits that have left him feeling as reined in as the river. Things only get worse when his father pulls a few strings to get him a summer job as a subsystems technician at Western Kentucky State Power, and he is given an uninspiring view of what his future may hold. But the boundaries all disappear when Thomas falls for his new history teacher, Alice, a woman eight years his senior who becomes his first love, and when he meets the town misfit, Shiloh, a vagabond and anarchist who becomes his new role model. With pasts and futures they long to be free of, this unlikely trio flees for rural Vermont, where they live in seclusion, a society of three with no commitments and no rules. Their adventures in freedom and in intimacy come at a price, however, as they discover that a life apart from the world does not ensure a life apart from the past - and for one of them, the past that emerges will threaten tragedy.