Fourteen-year-old Lex's father has died and we learn gradually that he killed himself, having become bitter and surly after an accident rendered him one-armed and ""useless."" Worse, it was Lex's angry words that drove him from the house that fatal day. But Lex resists much of the truth about the suicide, just as he resists the sympathy and friendship of his new stepfather. This is the situation when Lex's mother becomes fascinated with a family of swans that nests near their home; and as Lex grows increasingly involved with the swans, defending one new cygnet from its violent father who has killed another, his feelings about his own father come to the surface. There is little flesh to the brooding story, which is weighted down by the overbearing symbolism of the swans and the unallayed funk of its hero.