The story centres around the narrator, David Strorm, his small group of friends who all possess E.S.P., or extrasensory perception, and David's sternly religious family.
As a child, David has learned the strict morality of his society: "Watch Thou for the Mutant," "The Norm is the Will of God," and "The Devil is the Father of Deviation." This all meant that any living things - plant, animal, or man - had to be destroyed soon as it was discovered to be deviant. David's father, Joseph Strorm, was considered by the inhabitants of Waknuk to be a leader in the vigorous pursuit of deviations from the norm .
Waknuk, though, was relatively fortunate, because it was situated in Labrador, far away from the major centres of nuclear war - the Badlands - further to the south. Since God had sent Tribulation down upon the Old People, mankind had been struggling to return to the level of civilization that the Old People had enjoyed. Because the past generations of Waknuk had been very careful, the community was now fairly free of deviations that were the result of Tribulation. Any that did appear were destroyed or, in the case of deviant humans, banished to the Fringes country that lay towards the south, south-east, and south-west of the district.
At the beginning of the story David meets Sophie Wender and discovers that she is a physical deviant with six toes on each foot. Both she and her family are forced to flee. They are captured and banished to the Fringes. David finds it difficult to reconcile the laws of his...