This is a remarkable novel. Written in a beautifully crafted prose, its theme is the resistance of China to Christianity. Missionaries, one of them of mixed blood, make their way into the mind and heartland of China, seeking to bring the good news of the crucified and resurrected Lord to those who are still devoted to other, older, powers.
For the river people worship a river god; he after all is responsible for providing their livelihood. The fish are his soldiers. The villagers know they must propitiate him. When they catch a particularly large specimen they lay it on his altar all night, in sorrow at the possibility of his anger, for when he grows angry he swallows men. Into this world come John and Grace, the young missionaries, both orphaned, now married and eager to carry the gospel into the dark world of pagan superstition.