Sweet River Fool is the story of a homeless man named Snody (pronounced "Snow-dee") who begs and scavenges for a living in the small north-Georgia town of Sweet River. Despairing over his alcoholism and poverty, Snody tries to take his own life but botches the attempt. In the wake of this failure, he discovers a book about Saint Francis of Assisi and is captivated by the medieval saint's life. What fascinates him most is the paradox that allowed Francis to experience sublime joy in the midst of complete poverty. Inspired by admiration for Francis and a desire to understand the mystery of his joy, Snody begins to model his own life on the saint's. In the course of doing so, he befriends Clare, a teenage girl who, in spite of being an avowed atheist, is drawn to Snody's simple faith and gentle humor. By the novel's end, both Snody and Clare find their lives paralleling that of Francis in ways that they never imagined possible.