The tragic accidental drowning of Thomas’ younger brother results in the decimation of his family. Thomas’ father, unable to deal with the loss, turns to violence and alcohol, and his mother, as an attempt to extricate herself from the abuse, makes a failed attempt to kill his father, sending her to prison.
Thomas spends the rest of his life attempting to assuage his guilt, as he blames himself for the death of his brother. He seeks peace initially through life in a monastery, subsequently moving to London where he meets Iris, through whom he achieves a partial healing.
The story of Rivertown reflects the meaningful contrast between hardship and prosperity in which the outcome of relative coexistence within such differences may result in an appreciation of natural truth and virtue.