The book's central character is Mavala Shikongo, a combat veteran who fought in Namibia's long war for independence against South Africa. She has recently returned to the school - with a child, but no husband. Mavala is modern, restless, and driven, in sharp contrast to conservative Goas. All the male teachers (including a bumbling but observant volunteer from Cincinnati) try not to fall in love with her. Everyone fails - immediately and miserably. This novel explores the history of a place through the stories of its people. But above all it's about the fleetingness of love and the endurance of fellowship.