8 year old Raj, the middle of three boys, lives with his family on a sugar plantation in Mauritius during WWII as the novel opens. Life is hard, but young Raj knows only his immediate surroundings, getting water with his brother at the nearby river, his mother’s wisdom with healing plants, his father’s harsh lashes as he arrives home drunk most nights. School opens his eyes to another world and he feels shame for the first time. Then a flash flood washes away his beloved siblings and his family moves to avoid the heartache of their loss.
In their new home, Raj’s father works as a prison guard. Although his father tells him that the inmates are all criminals and dangerous men, Raj soon discovers his father is the greatest danger. After a savage beating lands Raj into the prison hospital, he discovers that the inmates are in fact Jewish refugees exiled from British controlled Palestine. One young orphan, David, visits Raj and the two become fast friends.
Appanah wonderfully captures the innocent voice of a boy who loses much and finds even more in his new friend. His young voice grabs your attention and holds it long after the novel ends.