In Looking Through Water Allen juxtaposes the metaphysical and the mundane in her first novel, an exploration of human failings and superhuman gifts on the northern Oregon coast in the Forties. Addie Sawyer, a precocious child, startles her parents, Jake and Rose, when she innocently describes seeing her grandfather’s spirit at his funeral. Jake and his family are founding members of a strict Bible church in their small town, and, when Addie later reveals an electrifying healing touch, Jake fears that the source of her gifts is the devil. Rose vigorously disagrees, escalating the conflicts in the marriage and in the church.
When Addie heals her brother from a life-threatening injury, events take a turn for the worse. The church elders take action to try to put a stop to Addie’s healing abilities. Tragedy follows, and as Addie weaves her way through the reactions, attitudes and frailties of those she loves the most, as a young woman she must come to terms with the demands of such a gift, and make decisions about her own beliefs, purpose and future.