Arvin Kraft loves his complicated family, but they talk about him: how slow he is, how they need to share the burden of caring for him, how tired they all are. He hides in the walls of the family's old house in Boston and listens to their laments. And he also discovers there a lead box of old papers. Slowly he reads them and finds they are the original manuscript of Melville's Moby-Dick, long thought to have been lost in an 1850s fire at his publisher. The manuscript is valuable enough to save the family's failing construction business if marketed properly. But Arvin wants more and Professor Thorne is the Melville expert who can help. Arvin and the professor take turns telling this tale with its lyric resonances of Moby-Dick, the specter of the curse of Ahab and strange deaths, and the scramble of greed as the manuscript becomes more valuable by the hour.