Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father in Canada when the pilot of the single engine plane dies of a heart attack. Brian manages to keep the plane in the air until the engine dies, causing them to crash into a lake. Brian survives with only the hatchet his mother gave him as a gift before he boarded the plane. In the original novel, Hatchet, Brian survives by using his wits and his hatchet. Also in the original novel, Brian is rescued after activating an emergency beacon in the plane after a tornado brings it to the surface of the lake. However, in response to hundreds of letters from fans of the novel, the author writes this book, Brian's Winter, to show what might have happened if Brian had not activated the emergency beacon.