Jack Tartarus, a photographer, has returned to his family's house on Crab, an island off the east coast of Vancouver Island. After mulling it over for ten years, Jack has decided to tear his family's house down, board-by-board, just as his father built it up. He purchases a wrecking bar. Struggling with the first piece of siding, his wrecking bar jammed between ancient planks, it seems the house is determined to remain. The people on Crab Island are also angrily opposed to his plan--including his responsible sister, his self-centered niece, a beautiful woman he knew intimately long ago, and Turtle, the hardware store clerk and the island's self-proclaimed guardian. In a story about families and family history, Jack's calculated plans for demolition are fired by the memory of his parents and the other losses he has felt. Like the others who have retreated to Crab Island, Jack has come to a place where he must make peace with the house, in order to construct his future.