We meet the Willoweed family after the nearby river has flooded. Some of the family are wading on the lower floor of the house, and Ebin Willoweed has taken the girls out in the boat, from which they are observing the dead animals floating by.
The novel is almost entirely concerned with the Willoweeds. Ebin is a writer who lost his newspaper job years ago and hasn’t worked since. He lives in his mother’s ramshackle but enormous house with his three children, the entire household terrorized by his tyrannical mother.
The Willoweeds seem stuck in a monotonous existence. Ebin occupies some of his time by having an affair with the wife of the village baker. Emma, the oldest daughter, yearns for pretty clothes and shoes but has to be content with clumsy ones made in the village. Dennis and Hattie love playing in the river.
Then a mysterious malady strikes the village. People begin to run mad and commit suicide. No one knows who will die next.
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead is narrated with the same innocent simplicity of Comyns’ other novels, which deal with similar grotesque situations and characters. It’s one of the things that makes them so readable, yet so eerie.