Envision an imaginary dial with which you can turn all sounds from your everyday experience onto the highest level of volume: that is the world of 13–year old Ship Sooner whose incredible ability to hear sounds normally indiscernible to the human ear defines her life–"Carson McCullers meets Alice Hoffman" (Baltimore Sun).
Ship Sooner hears everyone and everything in her sleepy Massachusetts town. Sounds of frost forming on glass; a rabbit hopping on just fallen snow; and of a fork making indentations on pie crust are as familiar to Ship as an old Sinatra tune played full volume at the town diner. Misunderstood by her classmates and ignored by her disdainful older sister, thirteen–year old Ship consoles herself by listening to the sounds of others' secrets: her mother's lips pressing against those of a balding salesman's; her sister Helen's trysts in a secluded shed; family friend Trudy's breath quickening as she cuts the hair of the town priest; and her only friend Brian Dodd's promise to his parents not to tell where he goes with them on Sunday afternoons.
Ship's isolation intensifies when Brian disappears inexplicably the day after Christmas. During the long winter of 1981, as Helen retreats behind her slammed bedroom door and her mother is increasingly absent, Ship keeps a vigil for Brian and slowly loses hope. But as winter melts to spring, an unexpected calling from the woods will lead her to make an astonishing discovery that compels her to abandon all that she has known, and set out on a journey to transform her life.