Madeline Dames moves to a small town in the Missouri Ozarks to get over the death of her third husband, but instead finds herself reliving another past. Her damaged younger sister shows up at her trailer, having changed her name from Angie to Misery, and no sooner does Misery move in, the abusive mother both sisters fear, Wanda, comes for a surprise visit.
When Madeline's new beau, Randy, brings two young people, a man and a woman, to Madeline's, claiming they need a place to stay, Madeline agrees. As it turns out, the young man is a deserter from the Iraq War. After writing some radical letters to newspapers, defending his desertion, he is forced to leave the country, and Randy vows to the pair escape to Canada. Madeline, Misery, Wanda, Randy, and the two young people head to the Northwest, the best exit point, but are chased by a Nebraska bus boy/bounty hunter, a patriot group with more Internet presence than resolve, and a renegade nun and her Blackfoot wards.
Swimming on Hwy N is an unpredictable generational story about abuse, recovery, love, hate, bravery, fear, devotion, and disillusionment. Sixty-year-old Madeline and the rest of the characters have to make several crucial choices, all of which can and will affect their lives on the road, and forever. Along the way, everyone learns their most important lesson, that you can never grow too old to surprise yourself.