Thirteen-year-old Caroline and her father have lived for four years on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, in Forest Park. He has homeschooled her using encyclopedias and books from the library while also teaching her a rigid code of behavior that enables them to survive in this wilderness. Yet one small mistake allows the authorities to discover them. Their forced relocation to a horse farm outside of the city becomes only a brief respite to their deeper flight from a world that can't understand them.
The Shelter Cycle tells the story of two children, Francine and Colville, who grew up in the Church Universal and Triumphant, a sect that predicted the world would end in the late 1980s. While their parents built underground shelters to withstand the impending Soviet missile strike, Francine and Colville played in the Montana wilderness, where invisible spirits watched over them.