Harry Boyd, a world-weary, washed-up television broadcaster, has returned to a small radio station in the remote reaches of the Canadian North. There, in the golden summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air, though the real Dido Paris is even more than he imagined.
Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric and fascinating characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pasts and what brought each of them to the North, are at the heart of the novel.
Then one summer, four of them embark upon a long canoe trip into the Barrens, a mysterious landscape of lingering ice and almost continuous light. In that wild and dynamic arctic setting (following in the steps of the legendary Englishman John Hornby, who starved to death in the Barrens in 1927), they find the balance of love shifting, much as the balance of power in the North is being changed by a proposed gas pipeline that threatens to displace Native people from their land.