Patrick, a 50-year-old professor of American Studies, drinker and womaniser, has been given six months to live. In a rural part of Cambridgeshire, a teenager dies in a motorcycle accident. When his heart is transplanted into Patrick’s chest, the lives of two strangers are forever conjoined. Patrick makes a good recovery from surgery, but has the strange feeling that his old life ‘won’t have him’. He discovers that his donor’s name was Drew Beamish, a local boy who had been expelled from school following a scandal, and becomes intensely curious, not only about Drew but what shaped him: his family and culture, the ancestor who took part in the famous Littleport riots of 1816, and the bleak yet beautiful landscape of the Fens.