Mary Miller had always been an outcast. As a young girl she had fallen into the hot burn - a torrent of warm chemical run-off from the local coal mine. Fished out white-haired and half-dead, sympathy for her quickly faded when the young man who pushed her in died in a mining accident just two days later. From then on she was regarded with a mixture of suspicion and fascination by her God-fearing community. Now, years later she is hardly less alone. She is the mother of a bastard son, Sandy, and caught up in a faltering affair with a local teacher. Sandy, meanwhile, has fallen in love with a strange homeless girl. The search for happiness isn't easy. Both mother and son must face a dark secret from their past, in the growing knowledge that their small dramas are being played out against a much larger canvas, glimpsed only in symbols and flickering images - of decay and regrowth, of fire and water - of the flood. The Flood is both a coming-of-age novel and an amazing portrait of a time and place. Dark, atmospheric and powerful, it is a remarkable debut from a remarkable author.