Hunt's Station is an isolated mountain hamlet just off the haunted Whispering Turnpike, a suicide road lined with white crosses and wrecked cars. It is the site of Hunt Waste Management, a toxic waste dump that is poisoning the earth. Groundwater is black as pitch; fires spontaneously erupt from the ground; smoke hovers in the air like guilt, the guilt of the town's few remaining souls over the deal they made with the devil, incarnated in the person of Sanborn Hunt, the dump's owner. Their only solace is the Singings, the impromptu country music recitals in which they play and sing "blood music, that good, deep marrow music." When Hank Rodgers returns to Hunt's Station after fifteen years in New York, it is as if he had never left. He is reunited with his father, Lloyd, a banjo maestro slowly wasting away; his old lover, Clare, Sanborn's daughter, secluded in her house; young Maggie Parriss, the town's last-born child; Dirty Willy, Sanborn's Snopes-like foreman; and others. Hank learns about Paul Keegan, a journalist whose body was found floating in a lagoon at Hunt's dump.