The novel opens with the titular family in the hold of a sailing ship, weathering a great storm. The ship's crew evacuate without them, so William, Elizabeth and their four sons (Fritz, Ernest, Jack and Franz) are left to survive alone. As the ship tosses about, William prays that God will spare them. After the shipwreck, the family is stranded on an island and have to work together to survive and make the island their new home. They had to learn how to grow their own food, build shelter, create clothes from animal skin, etc. They also did not have any contact with other people for many years so they had to make up new words for things that they didn’t know about. The book is an amazing read and dives deep into the behavior humans show when living in solitude as a recluse.