Somewhere in the heart of the Sargasso Sea, according to legend, there lies a calm body of water where all the wrecked ships of history find their way. Peter Sutherland, a youngish college professor weathering his first divorce, takes a Caribbean cruise in search of relaxation. Suddenly, a violent storm comes up, and sweeps him out into the Atlantic, clinging to a small rowboat. After many days, he is rescuedby the gentle people who live on the Drift, a floating city of French brigantines, Spanish galleons, English caravels, and Portugese men-of-war, hidden for hundreds of years at the center of the Sargasso Sea.
Although incredulous at first, Peter slowly falls under the spell of the beguiling paradise in which he has awakened, a process hastened by the presence of Pao, a bewitching, dark-haired girl of seventeen who hopes to charm him so completely that he will never want to leave her. As his love for Pao deepens, Peter's mind and senses grow strangely alive, and he finds himself immersed in a world of feeling and intuition he has never known. Both frightened and attracted by the power of the Drift, Peter must finally wrestle with the dilemma of how, and whether, to return to the land-locked life from which he has been both exiled and released.
Beneath the hauntingly lovely surface of this novel, the author has dislodged some bedrock questions about the nature of man's life, and the choices with which we are all confronted. In Peter's agonizing attempt to decide whether the Drift is real or only a seductive hallucination, and in his dilemma of whether to stay or leave, the reader will find a disturbing echo of his own fantasies about what is "real", or possible, or even desirable, within the private Drift that each of us inhabits.