Thomas Bunting, charming, chaotic, and deeply untruthful, is in despair. His marriage is disintegrating, and his academic career is in ruins: instead of completing his philosophy PhD, he is secretly writing what he hopes will be his masterwork, a vast atheistic project he has privately entitled 'The Book Against God'.
But when his father is suddenly taken ill Thomas returns home, to the tiny village in the north of England where his father still works as a parish priest. Thomas hopes that he may finally be able to communicate honestly with his father, a brilliant and formidable Christian example, and sort out his wayward life. But Thomas is a chronic liar, as well as an atheist, and he finds, instead, that once at home he only falls back into the disastrous and evasive patterns of his childhood years.