It's 1989 and magazine writer Liz Graham has been given a new assignment. She must travel to Romania to write an article about the most brutal Communist dictatorship in Europe, a regime which keeps its half-starved people under constant surveillance and which ruthlessly crushes any signs of dissident. In Bucharest, Liz meets Stefan Petrescu, a dissid ent poet and one of the few with the courage to confront the regime. They feel a powerful mutual attraction. But in Ceausescu's Romania, it is a crime for a citizen even to have contact with a foreigner.
We follow Liz as she tries to investigate a nation shivering in unheated apartments, scrabbling for food on the black market and avoiding the constant harrassment of the secret police. While collecting information for her article, she desperately searches for moments alone with Petrescu.
We flash forward to 2007. Liz's daughter Petra arrives in Bucharest. She's run away from her freshman semester at Brown University to search for the father she's never known -- whose existence she never even suspected until recently.
When the narrative switches between 1989 and 2007, we follow Petra's adventures with a group of young Romanians, attends her father's seminar and begins her own, nervous, halting first adult relationship.
As the book progresses, the two narratives gradually converge. As the fall of 1989 arrives, Communist governments are teetering all over Eastern Europe. The Berlin Wall, falls; in Prague the regime is swept away in a peaceful revolution. But the Romanian dictator is determined to stand firm, no matterv what the cost. The climax comes in December 1989 as the Romanian people rise up against the tanks and guns of the regime. Bucharest explodes in violence. Petrescu is at the center of the opposition while Liz is feverishly covering th e biggest story of her life. Their love becomes entangled with the fate of a nation. Ultimately, they will be called on to make the ultimate sacrifice.