Just north of the border, in a tired coastal town, live three generations of the Yosts, surfing royalty turned society misfits. The Yosts' reign and reputation, once defined in the curl of a perfect wave, have been eroded by years of bad luck, addiction and hubris. But just as things are looking like they can't get worse, a stranger named John arrives -- and the Yosts' banal existence is lifted into something profound, miraculous and, possibly, universal.
Set in Imperial Beach, California, the last great surf-break before Tijuana, where the U.S. meets Mexico, and water meets land, John From Cincinnati tells the story of the Yosts, a family of surfers whose awesome athletic talents have seemed for generations to come with a curse attached. The gifts of 13-year-old Shaun rival those of Butchie, his addict-derelict father, and his now-ascetically-withdrawn grandfather Mitch, both of whom defined the sport in their heydays. In shaping Shaun's career, his grandmother Cissy strives to achieve a commercial and athletic success that will compensate for the frustrations and failures of her life with her husband and son.
Into this world, where even simple joy has been turned into a commodity, steps a mysterious stranger named John. Soon after, things begin to happen to the Yosts, and those whose lives they touch, that test the boundaries of past and present, the mundane and the miraculous, the natural world and what lies beyond it.