Fourteen-year-old Lizzy Schiltz lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, the daughter of a Mennonite mother and Seventh Day Adventist father.
Raised in her father’s tradition of Sabbath-keeping and vegetarianism, Lizzy goes to church with her family every Saturday and attends private school with her younger brother at the Adventist academy down the road. There they learn math, science and social studies, along with teachings from the church’s 19th century prophet, a woman who suffered a head injury before beginning to speak God’s word.
Lizzy’s life may seem as protected as leftovers in a Tupperware bowl. But lately, Lizzy feels as though she’s running out of air.
Tending towards extremes in both moods and matters of religion, Lizzy’s father Simon increasingly finds the world pressing in on the walls he works to create. He’s disturbed by things like Lizzy’s new thrift store roller skates, which she wears in secret while reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (a novel Simon has forbidden)in the closet under the basement stairs.
When Simon meets the green-suited leader of the Still Water Adventist Commune, located in the hill country of the North Okanagan, he believes he’s found a refuge from the influences at their doorstep.
Although the rest of the family doesn’t share his conviction, Simon is determined. Either they will agree to go, or he will decide for them.
On a day trip to Still Water, with Lizzy and Zach left at home, it’s up to Marie to make her husband see reason. But her voice, the voice of a mouse, only makes Simon agitated. And the way she clutches her seatbelt as he drives only makes him drive faster.
Speeding around mountain curves, Simon loses control of the car. It plunges into one of the valley’s many lakes, and, unable to free herself from the seatbelt, Marie drowns.
In the months that follow, Lizzy’s father winds himself into a cocoon of depression, while Lizzy is drawn into the vacuum left behind by her mother. She takes over in the kitchen, in the laundry room, and with her younger brother Zach.
Then one day, Lizzy acts her age. She takes her roller skates out of the house and walks to the rink on Highway 97, where they play rock videos and sell hot dogs and cups of sugary blue slush.
However, her freedom is short-lived. Within weeks, Lizzy and what remains of her family become the Still Water Commune’s newest residents.
Now Lizzy wakes early each morning in a house that is two bungalows nailed together, where the residents eat supper for breakfast, and consume so many carrots that the whites of their eyes have turned orange.
Having provoked Mrs. Bloosum, the colony’s head housekeeper, Lizzy is assigned to help in the kitchen. There she finds an unexpected friend in Charlotte Quigley, a vegan cook who teaches her that there is no flavour that cannot be imitated with a little ingenuity and just the right amount of nutritional yeast flakes.
But this is the life Lizzy’s father wanted.
As far as Lizzy can tell, there’s no going back. Not even after she discovers her brother spending time with an older boy who likes to start fires, whose destructive habits are overlooked because he seems to have a gift for interpreting prophesy.
When Lizzy is burned while extinguishing a fire set by her brother, Lizzy makes a decision. With a father unwilling to be parted from his spiritual haven, she steals a jar of money from the kitchen and packs two eggless egg salad sandwiches into a paper bag. In the middle of the night she and Zach hitch a ride to the nearest Greyhound Bus Depot. There she makes a phone call and buys a pair of tickets east to Saskatchewan.
After twenty hours on the road, Lizzy and Zach step out of the bus and find their Mennonite aunt and uncle waiting to introduce them to a life their mother left behind.