We meet the Stamper family who live in Wakonda, Oregon. It's the early 1960's, and the town runs on the logging industry. The union goes on strike to demand fair pay for decreased hours of labor (since technology improved, reducing the need for labor). But the Stampers own a small company, free from unions. They keep on working as if the strike is not happening.
The decision is heavily scrutinized from many points of view by the prose. Henry Stamper's opinion is conservative, philosophically and politically. His life motto is "Never Give a Inch" [sic], which defines his opinion of the strike. Hank, his older son, has a powerful personality, but his insecurity poses a risk for the future of the family.
Then we meet the younger half-brother of Hank, Leland. Leland doesn't fit in very well, and eventually he will end up on the East Coast. Finally, there is Viv, whose love for Hank Sr. wanes over the years as she slowly resigns herself to the slavery he has created for her in their marriage.
One day, Leland has moved to the East Coast, but his mother dies, and he goes to Oregon to pursue revenge against Henry, or at least to settle the score in some way. These days, the river by the house has widened, and the foundation of the house is precariously close to the erosion, but Henry is too stubborn to move. Eventually, the house will collapse and everyone knows it, but for now, it stands on a little peninsula, a testament to Henry's stubbornness, surrounded on all sides by rapidly flowing water.