In the dying days of the twentieth century an elderly poet wanders the streets of Vilnius, haunted by a terrible secret. His memories of the Second World War have been buried for fifty years, but now, as he picks his way through the rubble of the ghetto, and looks in the faces of young women he passes, he is reminded of the girl he once loved - and betrayed - and finds himself once again compelled to tell her story. In a decaying tenement a washerwoman struggles between the twilight world of Vilnius's brothels and her flickering hopes of building a better life for her children. Her son needs USD 1000 if he is to escape to England, and she knows of only one way to earn such an impossible amount of money. Her life, and the poet's, weave between each other as they both step carefully around the cracks of the past, in search of any kind of peace. And through the tangled debris of Lithuania's past and present, the story of a beautiful Jewish girl and a young poet - whose love was ultimately not strong enough to save her from the persecution of the Russians, or from the final, deadly designs of the Nazis - coils its way to the surface and demands to be told.