Two years after the Titanic, a group of people are forced to survive on a small lifeboat after their luxury oceanliner explodes and sinks.
The novel is from the point of view of Grace, a young newlywed who is on trial for murder, through her journal account of their experience.
The passengers seem to believe that, despite their misfortune, help will arrive soon. After several days, the solitude of the sea begins to take its toll on the passengers. Hunger and thirst muddy their minds, a looming storm threatens to sink the boat, and different opinions threaten to tear apart the unified effort of the passengers. They (as well as the reader) are faced with questions of how far a person should go to further their survival.